A spectre is haunting Germany

April 01, 2018 12:00 am | Updated 03:36 am IST

According to a recent statement by Germany’s Interior Ministry, at least 950 assaults against Muslim individuals and Islamic establishments took place in 2017 all over the country, which means that Muslims have been attacked on average three times a day. At least 33 persons have been injured in these attacks. In many cases, scarf-wearing women were assaulted and mosques were burnt. There were instances of pig heads thrown into mosque compounds. This was the first time that the German government published data on anti-Muslim attacks.

Most attacks were committed by right-wing extremists, according to reports. However, since Turkey’s military stepped up operations against Kurdish militant groups, especially those in the Syrian city of Afrin, activists from Germany’s secular, left-wing Kurdish diaspora have also been involved in attacks.

Many Muslims observe the development with fear and concern. “Burning mosques is a pathetic display of German politics. Right-wing violence is a reality, especially since the 1980s,” said Anil Altintas, 26, a student from Berlin. According to Mr. Altintas, who has Turkish roots, it is obvious that Germany faces anti-Muslim racism.

“Germany chummed up with the Turkish government and ignored the problems and the fear of the Kurds. One result of this is how both communities became more and more divided in the German diaspora. However, it is totally wrong to attack Turkish institutions or mosques because they are somehow connected with Turkey’s government,” he said.

According to the Interior Ministry’s report, about 60 mosques were attacked last year. Aiman Mazyek, the chairman of the German Council of Muslims, believes the real figures are much higher and that the police and public prosecutors are not fully aware of the issue yet. For the German judiciary, the issue of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crimes is still something new. Additionally, many victims would prefer to stay silent and not file charges.

In an interview, Ulla Jelpke of Germany’s left-wing party Die Linke said that with the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), anti-Muslim mood is strengthening in Germany. “The Muslim haters jumped from the street right into the Bundestag [the German Parliament] and they are poisoning the climate towards Muslim life in Germany,” she said.

Growing Islamophobia

Politicians and the media are also responsible for the growing Islamophobia, say some observers. “The dehumanisation of Muslims fuels atrocities against them. The end goal of every form of racism is the expulsion or extinction of the inferior ‘other’,” said Farid Hafez, a senior research scholar at the Bridge Initiative at Georgetown University.

Some German Muslims also believe that their basic human rights are being attacked on a daily basis. “According to Germany’s Constitution, practising your religion is part of your freedom. However, all these attacks against mosques suggest that a part of the population does not want to have Muslims here,” said Radwan Saad, 27, a student from Stuttgart. “There is simply no justification for this inhuman behaviour.”

Nevertheless, it appears that many German politicians, including government officials, are not interested in tackling the issue. Recently, Horst Seehofer, a leading conservative politician of the Christian Social Union, said that “Islam is not part of Germany”. Mr. Seehofer is also Germany’s new Home Minister.

According to the Interior Ministry, about 60 mosques were attacked last year, but the German Council of Muslims says the real figures are much higher and that the police are not fully aware of the issue yet

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