Angela Merkel joins Muslim community rally in Berlin | Germany
Angela Merkel has joined a Muslim community rally in Berlin to promote tolerance, condemn the Paris attacks and send a rebuke to the growing anti-Islamic movement in Germany.
“Hate, racism and extremism have no place in this country,” she said in a speech earlier today. “We are a country based on democracy, tolerance and openness to the world.”
The vigil at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Tuesday evening was organized by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany under the banner “Let’s be there for each other.” Terror: not in our name!
The imams recited Koranic verses, including a passage condemning death. After speeches by Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders and a minute of silence, President Joachim Gauck addressed several thousand guests.
“Germany has diversified through immigration – religiously, culturally and mentally,” Gauck, a former pastor and East German dissident, told the group of several hundred people near the Brandenburg Gate. “This diversity has made our country prosperous, interesting and friendly.”
Declaring in French “I am a Jew, I am a Muslim”, Aiman Mazyek, head of the German Council of Muslims, added: “We stand together for a Germany that is open to the world, with a big heart, which honors the freedom of opinion. , the press and religion. Christian and Jewish leaders also spoke.
Merkel, who is joined at the event by most of her cabinet, spoke out against the far-right group Pegida and stressed on Monday that “Islam belongs to Germany”.
Pegida drew a record 25,000 marchers to its 12th weekly rally in Dresden on Monday, its flag-waving members holding a minute’s silence for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo bombings in Paris last week.
His latest demonstration was met by some 100,000 counter-protesters across the country, who accused Pegida of exploiting French attacks by Islamist gunmen and voiced support for a multicultural German society.
Merkel thanked the leaders of Germany’s 4 million-strong Muslim community for quickly and clearly condemning the violence committed in the name of their faith in last week’s bloody attacks in Paris.
“Germany wants the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and members of other religions” and the vigil would send a strong message, she told a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The rallies organized by Pegida, launched in October, have multiplied week by week and spawned groups of copycats across the country.
The protests have been fueled by a surge in the number of refugees seeking political asylum in Germany, which has rushed to house new arrivals in schools, office buildings and converted container villages.