German Muslims call for solidarity over mosque attacks | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.03.2018
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German Muslims call for solidarity over mosque attacks

Three major German Muslim associations have demanded that politicians and media pay more attention to violence against mosques. They said the recent spate of arson attacks were an attack on society at large.

Attack on mosque in Baden-Württemberg (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Schuldt)

Last week, unidentified perpetrators threw Molotov cocktails into this mosque in the western state of Baden-Württemberg

Representatives of Germany's three biggest Muslim organizations joined forces on Thursday to call for more solidarity from German politicians, media, and society at large in the face of a recent spate of attacks on mosques in the country.

The leaders of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), the Turkish Muslim organization DITIB, and the Islamic Council also condemned attempts in the media to depict threats from foreign terror groups as an imported foreign conflict irrelevant to German society.

"Muslims have already been under constant threat by far-right extremists for decades anyway," a joint statement from the organizations read. "This dangerous situation has been further heightened by foreign terrorist groups."

Read also: Mistrust, Islamophobia rise dramatically in Germany's melting pot

The number of attacks on mosques and Muslims in Germany has been climbing over the past few years. Federal police statistics for "politically-motivated crimes" registered some 73 attacks on mosques in 2017 (out of a total of 950 Islamophobic crimes) but the Muslim organizations have counted 27 this year alone. By comparison, official stats counted only 23 attacks on mosques in the whole of 2010. The organizations added that the number of actual attacks was likely much higher, since many mosques only report incidents to police if they've happened repeatedly.

Three attacks on mosques were reported in Germany just last weekend. In one incident, three youths were seen throwing a Molotov cocktail through the window of a mosque in the early hours of Sunday morning in the Reinickendorf district of Berlin; an attack in Baden-Württemberg also was carried out with the explosive devices.

An attack on democracy

ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek was particularly vociferous at Thursday's press conference in Berlin. "Any attack on a church, a synagogue, or a mosque, is an attack on our democracy, on our country," he said. "When mosques in our country burn, then our country burns. We need to stick together as a society. Mosques are on fire - we can't just go back to the everyday routine."

Mazyek (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/E. Contini)

Mazyek said this was not a Turkish-German conflict, or a Turkish-Kurdish conflict, but an attack on German social cohesion

Mazyek also objected to the way German media, attempting to emphasize that fact that the attackers were suspected of being of Kurdish descent, described the mosques in Germany as "Turkish."

"A mosque is a German mosque, attended by people of many different ethnicities," he said. "An imam, regardless of what origin he has, is a spiritual leader here in this country. Houses of God, regardless of what kind they are, need to be protected, regardless of who the attacker is - whether it's far-right extremists, or Muslim extremists, or Turkish nationalists, or Kurdish nationalists. That's a discussion that needs to be had, but it's nothing to do with whether these mosques need to be protected."

That sentiment was echoed by Zekeriya Altug, board member at DITIB, the religious organization in Germany financed by the Turkish state. "The media awakens the impression that there's a Turkish-Kurdish conflict that is being fought out here in Germany," he said. "But in the vast majority of attacks on mosques are attacks from far-right extremists."

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But rival pro-Kurdish and pro-Turkish protesters have clashed in recent days. Violence broke out at Düsseldorf airport on Sunday over Turkey's military offensive in the Kurdish region of Afrin, Syria.

When asked why no specific German Kurdish organizations had been invited to the press conference, Altug said that his organization had many Kurdish members, and that the three groups had meant to emphasize the religious unity of all Muslims. Altug also pointed out that the leading secular German Turkish association, the TGD, was not there either.

Demonstration in Düsseldorf (picture-alliance/dpa/B. Radike)

A demonstration at Düsseldorf airport turned violent

German-Turkish conflict?

It was left to Mazyek to point out that statements from the Turkish government were not exactly making it easier to get this message across, however.

The Turkish government recently summoned the German ambassador over the attacks on mosques – rather undermining the message that Mazyek was trying to get across: "This is not a German-Turkish conflict, this is about German institutions that have to be protected by German authorities," he said. "That's our position, and that needs to be underlined in the face of Turkish policy too."

The three groups also criticized some German security forces for failing to take attacks on mosques seriously enough. Altug said that while many police forces reacted very professionally, some chapters of the DITIB reported that local police have to be reminded by their state colleagues to be aware of the threat to mosques. All three organizations also said that they had begun putting together courses to help mosques to protect themselves better.

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