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8457Islamophobia in Germany: German Muslims angry at "anti-foreigner" campaign

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jan 6, 2008
      German 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
      "political arson".

      "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
      country's foreigners.

      (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
      their history.

      Germany, the land of Pope Benedict's birth, is home to
      some 3.2 million Muslims, over half of whom are of
      Turkish origin.

      Germany has Europe's second-biggest Muslim population
      after France.