8457Islamophobia in Germany: German Muslims angry at "anti-foreigner" campaign
- Jan 6, 2008German Muslims angry at "anti-foreigner" campaign
Wed Jan 2, 2008 2:40pm GMT
By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Muslim groups on Wednesday
accused a senior politician in Chancellor Angela
Merkel's conservative party of stirring up hostility
against foreigners in a bid to win a regional
Roland Koch of the Christian Democrats (CDU) has
focused his campaign for re-election as premier of the
prosperous western state of Hesse on crime, in
particular offences by foreigners.
He reacted to an assault on a German pensioner by two
youths -- one Greek, one Turkish -- in a Munich
railway station by saying Germany had too many young
foreign criminals and urging an end to "multicultural"
coddling of immigrants.
The assailants shouted "Shit German" at the man before
kicking him in the head. The brutal attack, caught on
a surveillance camera and played repeatedly on German
television in recent days, prompted calls for tougher
sentencing, boot camps and even the deportation of
criminals of foreign origins.
"The debate is shameful and scandalous," head of the
TGD Turkish Communities in Germany Kenan Kolat told
Reuters on Wednesday, saying the deportation issue was
"This is pure populism," he said, urging Merkel to
speak out against it.
Germany is home to about 15 million people with an
immigrant background -- about 18 percent of the
population -- and Merkel has talked often about the
need to integrate the country's 3.2 million Muslims,
most of whom are of Turkish origin.
But she says immigrants must accept German culture and
won rapturous applause at a conference of her mostly
Roman Catholic party last month for saying mosques
should not dwarf churches.
On Wednesday, Koch unveiled a programme to crack down
on youth crime, which included plans to change the law
to make it easier to deport young criminals.
"He needs to grab attention and is playing the
foreigner card but it's damaging as he is reinforcing
negative cliches," said Aiman Mazyek, of the Central
Council of Muslims in Germany.
Ali Kizilkaya, head of the Muslim group Islamrat,
called Koch irresponsible.
"You might be able to win elections with these slogans
but it will damage the image of Germany," he told
Reuters, saying he would like to have seen more
criticism of Koch from other CDU members, many of whom
have backed him, and from the media.
Social Democrat (SPD) Andrea Ypsilanti, Koch's
opponent in the January 27 vote in Hesse, accused him
of resorting to panic measures and waging a campaign
based on fear.
Most polls indicate Koch will lose his absolute
majority but that he will be able to hold onto power
by forming a coalition with the liberal Free Democrats
Critics have accused Koch of using "anti-foreigner"
tactics before. In 1999, he won the Hesse vote with a
petition against plans to give citizenship to half the
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Giles
Muslims Slam Merkel's Mosque Remark
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
Fri. Dec. 7, 2007
BERLIN German Muslims have hit out at Chancellor
Angela Merkel for suggesting that mosque minarets
should not be higher than church steeples, saying her
provocative remarks were politically motivated.
"We must be on guard against sparking artificial
discussions for political purposes which have little
connection with reality," Bekir Alboga, spokesman for
the Coordination Council of Muslims, an umbrella
organization for Muslims in Germany, said in a
statement cited Thursday, December 6, by Reuters.
Merkel, a Lutheran pastor's daughter, told a congress
of her conservative Christian Democrats that "we must
take care that mosque cupolas are not built
demonstratively higher than church steeples".
Alboga said he was worried that mosques could become a
campaign issue in state elections coming up in some
parts of Germany.
But he said that such remarks are weightless when it
comes to building authorities.
"Comments like Chancellor Merkel's (about Mosques) ...
take a back seat to the expert opinions of building
authorities, who base their decisions on local
conditions and consensus between the citizens and
mosque communities," he said.
Mosque-building is a sensitive subject in Germany.
Merkel's fellow conservatives in Bavaria have been
saying for months that minarets should not dwarf
steeples. Local residents are up in arms about plans
to build mosques in Berlin, Munich and Cologne.
Christians in Cologne do not want the city's skyline
now dominated by one of the world's largest cathedrals
to be altered by two tall minarets.
Alboga said Muslims and Christians have more important
issues to deal with than arguing about the height of
minarets and steeples.
"Parts of the world are on fire," he said. "Instead of
putting those out we're fighting over secondary
Islamophobic remarks have gained momentum after
Merkel's conservative party came to power in November
In statements endorsed by Merkel's party last June,
Germany's top cardinal warned against "uncritical
tolerance" which could lead to Islam enjoying equal
standing with Christianity in the country.
Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the head of the German
conference of bishops, has expressed concern about
religious freedom leading to all faiths being treated
equally regardless of the size of their flock and
Germany, the land of Pope Benedict's birth, is home to
some 3.2 million Muslims, over half of whom are of
Germany has Europe's second-biggest Muslim population