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Cologne Salafist blames women for sexual attacks

Kate Brady
January 22, 2016

A Salafist imam in Cologne has said victims of the New Year's Eve sexual assaults were partly responsible for the attacks. In a subsequent interview, Sami Abu-Yusuf has claimed his comments were "taken out of context."

Cologne Imam Sami Abu-Yusuf
Image: YouTube/REN TV

In an interview with Russian television channel REN TV, the Cologne imam said the attacks must be discussed "openly."

"We mustn't attack each other," he said, warning that this would only "add fuel to the fire."

Sami Abu-Yusuf also said one of the reasons why the men raped or assaulted the women was "due to the way they dressed."

"If they're half-naked and wearing perfume, it's not surprising that such things would happen," Abu-Yusuf said.

Comments 'out of context'

The imam's comments were met with outrage on social media, with German Greens politician Volker Beck tweeting that Abu-Yusuf's claims were "misanthropy" and that he had filed a criminal complaint against the imam.

In a follow-up interview with local Cologne paper "Express," the 42-year-old imam said his comments about the attacks had been "taken out of context."

"There were scantily clad women who were wearing perfume as they walked through the drunken crowd. For some North Africans, this was reason to grope the women," Abu-Yusuf told "Express."

"That doesn't mean that I think women shouldn't be allowed to dress like that," he added. "Everyone has to accept that. And if they don't agree, they need to go to another country. That's the truth."

Ongoing investigation

A 140-member team is currently investigating more than 800 legal complaints from Cologne's New Year's Eve celebrations, more than 350 of which are of a sexual nature.

Witnesses in front of Cologne's main train station in the early hours of January 1 described many of the perpetrators as being of North African or Arab origin.

In light of the attacks, women's rights groups have taken to the streets of Cologne in recent weeks to protest against violence directed at women. Organizers of the demonstrations have strived to highlight a wider problem, however, arguing that women are facing assaults and harassment on a daily basis, regardless of who's committing them.

With huge Carnival celebrations in Cologne and other cities in less than two weeks, demand for over the counter self-defense products has also risen significantly in recent weeks, even selling out in some stores.