Mosque attacks in Germany

A duty to protect

The recent spate of mosque attacks and a rise in hate crime has immigrants in Germany sounding the alarm. Community leaders are calling for more support and understanding from state authorities, including the police. By Astrid Prange

"I'm really concerned," said Raed Saleh, parliamentary leader for Berlin's Social Democratic Party. "I can see how Islamophobia is being stirred up, to a degree that I never would have thought possible 10 years ago."

Saleh is a practicing Muslim. He's also a role model when it comes to interfaith dialogue. Together with Berlin's Jewish community, he wants to rebuild a synagogue that was destroyed by the Nazis 80 years ago, on the border between the city districts of Kreuzberg and Neukolln.

The recent attacks on mosques and the anti-Islam comments made by Germany's new interior minister, Horst Seehofer, show how painstaking this dialogue is. "The attacks on the mosques are unacceptable. An attack on a mosque, a synagogue, or a church is always an attack on society as a whole," explained Saleh.

Generally, crime rates are going down in Germany, with the number of criminal violations in many states sinking to a historic low last year. But at the same time, the number of politically motivated crimes is increasing.

According to the Interior Ministry, the number of recorded incidents classed as hate crimes increased from 3,770 to 10,751 between 2010 and 2016. The increase is particularly marked in the "religious and foreign ideology" category.

Raed Saleh, parliamentary leader of Berlin's Social Democratic Party (photo: Reuters/Axel Schmidt)
Raed Saleh, parliamentary leader for Berlin's Social Democratic Party and practicing Muslim: "Islamophobia is being stirred up to a degree that I never would have thought possible 10 years ago"

Ongoing trend in polarisation

Politically motivated crimes stemming from conflicts abroad also increased in the same time period from 120 to 404 cases. The number of religiously motivated crimes jumped from 248 to 1,516 cases. Although the final nationwide figures for 2017 haven't been released yet, a look at the data published so far by individual states – including Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, Saxony, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Berlin and Rhineland Palatinate – shows that this polarising trend is set to continue.

So, will mosques and synagogues in Germany need police protection in future? Does the country generally need greater protection to ensure religious freedom? The answer is mixed.

"It's not possible to station a police officer in front of every mosque or every Turkish cultural centre," said Yunus Ulusoy of the Centre for Turkish Studies and Integration Research. Resources simply can't stretch to cover the over 2,000 mosques in Germany, he explained.

Experts at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which works to combat right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism, take a similar view. "Given the latest attacks in mosques, I would say that they do need stronger police protection," said spokesman Robert Ludecke, adding that police presence alone cannot solve the underlying security problem.

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