World Bulletin/News Desk
Chancellor Merkel has said she does "not see Islamization" in Germany in a challenge to claims made by far-right groups alleging German culture is being eroded by Muslims.
In some of her strongest statements to date on the rapidly growing anti-Islam movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA), she said in an interview published on Friday by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "I know that many people feel discomfort, but this is maybe because that we know only little about Islam."
She renewed her call for citizens not to join PEGIDA's protests, saying the organizers were full of prejudice and hate.
"We are systematically working on solutions to address the concerns of the citizens, but on these demonstrations, there are also some other motives,” she said, urging citizens not to let themselves be exploited by far-right groups.
The Islamophobic movement began weekly protests in Dresden in October with about 500 protesters, but the number had swelled to more than 25,000 people at its latest rally on Monday.
PEGIDA has attracted far-right and right-wing groups as well as citizens unaffiliated to a political party or group.
The recent attacks in France further increased support for the movement.
Merkel urged citizens to differentiate between religious extremists and devout believers.
“As a Chancellor my duty is to protect the vast majority of Muslims in Germany against general suspicions, and fight against violence in the name of Islam,” she said.
Merkel added the majority of Muslims in Germany had condemned attacks and distanced themselves from the violent groups.
Asked about a possible attack by religious extremists in Germany, Merkel said that the German authorities were doing everything they could to prevent such an incident.
“We are working together with our international partners because we are not in a position to fight such threats alone. But we cannot totally rule out such attacks also in Germany,” Merkel said.
'Source of radicalization'
She underlined the need for good and functioning cooperation among international secret services.
Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, after France.
Among the four million Muslims in the country, three million are of Turkish origin.
German security organizations estimate that about 550 Germans, mostly young immigrants from Salafist groups, have travelled to Syria and joined ISIL since the beginning of the civil war.
About 6,000 Salafists are active in Germany, according to the Interior Ministry – a number which accounts for a very small minority of the Muslim population.
Germany’s leading Muslim organizations say the source of the radicalization of some young immigrants is not Islam itself, but sociological problems they face, such as discrimination, unemployment or a lack of future prospects.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Ocak 2015, 16:22