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France sees more than 50 anti-Muslim incidents after Charlie Hebdo shootings

Meanwhile, Germany’s anti-Islamic was set to march today.

Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

THERE HAVE BEEN more than 50 anti-Muslim incidents in France since last week’s shootings by gunmen claiming to represent Islamist groups, the country’s Muslim community said today.

The incidents included 21 reports of shooting at Islamic buildings and the throwing of some form of grenades, and 33 threats, a spokesman for the monitoring body at the Central Council of Muslims in France said.

The website Tell Mama has released its stats on attacks:

It says that attacks include a car belonging to a Muslim family being targeted by gunfire; the gate of a Mosque being tagged with anti-Muslim graffiti; and a teenager being assaulted by a gang after suffering racial abuse.

Anti-Islamic march in Germany

Charlie Hebdo magazine shooting People take part in a solidarity rally in Dublin's city centre, in memory of the victims of terror attacks in Paris. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Meanwhile, Germany’s new anti-Islamic movement was set to march today, hoping to gain numbers after the jihadist bloodshed in Paris, as Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would join a Muslim community rally for tolerance the following day.

Leaders of the so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (PEGIDA) have asked participants in their latest march late today to wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence for “the victims of terrorism in Paris”.

Euphemistically dubbed “evening strolls” by the group, the latest of the marches in the eastern city of Dresden was expected to ride a wave of fear and revulsion at the killings of 17 people in France last week to beat last week’s record attendance of 18,000.

However counterprotests have been gaining momentum, with 35,000 people turning out Saturday in Dresden against the right-wing populist group.

Merkel said she and several members of her cabinet would on Tuesday attend a vigil organised by Muslim groups in Berlin to denounce extremist violence and social division.

“Germany wants peaceful co-existence of Muslims and members of other religions,” Merkel told reporters after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, adding that Tuesday’s vigil would send “a very strong message” .

She added that German President Joachim Gauck would speak at the Muslim community rally.


Germany Turkey German Chancellor Angela Merkel Source: Michael Sohn

The latest PEGIDA demonstration comes after a firebombing early yesterday against a tabloid in the northern city of Hamburg that had reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed from the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo.

It was at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo that gunmen first struck, kicking off France’s three days of terror.

German police were investigating whether there was a link between the show of support for the French weekly and the arson attack but let two suspects detained Sunday go for lack of evidence.

As a security precaution, the eastern city of Leipzig, which will see its first PEGIDA-style demonstration today, has banned marchers from displaying Mohammed cartoons, which have been seen at other events.

‘Exploiting’ Paris crimes

Charlie Hebdo magazine shooting Members of the public in London's Trafalgar Square in support of the Charlie Hebdo victims Source: Stefan Rousseau

With tensions running high, political leaders even urged PEGIDA to call off the event, saying it had no right to whip up hatred against Muslims in the name of solidarity with terror victims.

“If the organisers had a shred of decency they would simply cancel these demonstrations,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas told the mass-selling daily Bild.

It is simply disgusting how the people behind these protests are trying to exploit the despicable crimes in Paris.

The head of Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, Horst Seehofer, echoed the call.

At a time “when the whole world is mourning and in shock over the events in Paris”, PEGIDA leaders should at least “for the time being” cancel their rallies, Seehofer said.

The demonstrations, though largely limited to Dresden in former communist east Germany, have shaken the reunified country’s image of itself as open to the world and tolerant.

Germany, Europe’s most populous nation with around 80 million people, is home to about four million Muslims, three-quarters of whom are of Turkish origin.

In a survey conducted several weeks ago and released last Thursday, 57 percent of non-Muslim Germans said they felt threatened by Islam, four points higher than in 2012.

And 61 percent said Islam had no place in the West, according to the study released by the Bertelsmann Foundation think-tank.

Meanwhile PEGIDA has said on its Facebook page that the killings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris confirmed its own views.

“The Islamists, which PEGIDA has been warning about for 12 weeks, showed France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer,” it said.

“Our politicians want us to believe the opposite. Must such a tragedy happen here in Germany first???”

Activists have announced plans for PEGIDA spin-offs in Austria and Scandinavia, while other European far-right groups have voiced support for the German movement.

However, even as copycat marches are planned in other German cities, counter-demonstrations against PEGIDA have been growing in strength.

Many of the 35,000 who hit the streets of Dresden Saturday carried signs reading “I am Charlie but not PEGIDA” borrowing from the solidarity slogan with the Paris victims.

- © AFP, 2015 Additional reporting Aoife Barry

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