Anti-Muslim attacks in Germany double, but not being dealt with, NGO says

Similarly to antisemitic incidents, anti-Muslim sentiment in the country has spiked in the wake of October 7

A 'Happy Ramadan' sign is illuminated on the occasion of the beginning of the month of Ramadan in a pedestrian zone in Frankfurt, Germany, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/ Michael Probst)
A 'Happy Ramadan' sign is illuminated on the occasion of the beginning of the month of Ramadan in a pedestrian zone in Frankfurt, Germany, March 10, 2024. (AP Photo/ Michael Probst)

BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) — Attempted arson on a mosque in Bochum that had been marked with a swastika, the door of a Muslim family in Saxony shot at by a right-wing extremist neighbor, a woman pushed onto train tracks in Berlin after being asked if she belonged to Hamas.

These are some of the record 1,926 anti-Muslim incidents registered in Germany last year by the CLAIM network of NGOs monitoring Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred. The number marked a 114 percent increase in 2023, with incidents shooting up in particular after the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel from Gaza.

Yet authorities are paying insufficient attention to this phenomenon, and even denying its existence, as mainstream parties take over policies of far-right, anti-Islam parties that have surged in popularity, Rima Hanano told a Berlin news conference on Monday to present the report.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which states in its program that Islam does not belong to Germany, has jumped to second place in polls over the past year, prompting mainstream parties to talk tougher on migration.

“The streets, buses or mosques are no longer safe places for people who are Muslim or perceived as such,” said Hanano. “Anti-Muslim racism was never as socially acceptable as today and it comes from the middle of society.”

The incidents recorded, likely only a fraction of the total, given a fear of coming forward and a lack of monitoring institutions, included 90 attacks on Islamic religious sites, cemeteries, and other institutions, CLAIM wrote.

An AfD election poster for the European elections reading ‘our country first’ is fixed on a pole in Frankfurt, Germany, May 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Michael Probst), File)

Most attacks on individuals consisted of verbal abuse and were aimed at women. There were also four attempted murders.

The Muslim population in Germany has been growing rapidly, especially since an influx of migrants in 2015-16, tallying 5.5 million in total or 6.6% of the overall population.

Islamaphobic incidents soar

The CLAIM report tallies with a 140% increase in Islamophobic crimes last year recorded by the interior ministry, and a survey showing one in two Germans hold Islamophobic views.

According to the German government and NGOs, antisemitism also rose following Israel’s devastating military incursion into the Gaza Strip after the October 7 cross-border attack by Hamas-led Palestinian Islamist terrorists in which they murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 251 hostages.

In a country that is particularly sensitive about antisemitism due to its responsibility for the Holocaust, German authorities have been more vocal in denouncing that problem than they have been regarding anti-Muslim incidents.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck, in an emotive video, accused some Muslim community groups in Germany of being “too hesitant” in distancing themselves from Hamas or anti-Jewish hatred.

German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth Lisa Paus arrives at the chancellor for the cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, June 5, 2024. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The government last year published its first-ever independent report on Islamophobia by experts it commissioned, with a series of recommendations for tackling discrimination.

Family Minister Lisa Paus has said the recent rise in both anti-Muslim and antisemitic incidents was “dramatic” and the government was trying to do prevention work from an early age by funding civil society projects working on the issue.

CLAIM’s Hanano said, however, that insufficient action had been taken so far.

“Despite the fact… that we have been warning about this situation for years, it is still barely acknowledged,” she said. “What we really need is the political will to truly fight anti-Muslim racism.”

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