New Study reveals 50% of the German population regards Muslims as a threat
A two-year study published in the last week (29th June), revealed shocking data about current attitudes towards Muslims in Germany. The report was commissioned in the aftermath of a brutal far-right racist attack in Hanau in February 2020, in which nine people from immigrant backgrounds – mostly of Muslim faith, were the victims of a targeted shooting spree.
German Society largely 'either consciously or unconsciously' hostile to Muslims
The report which was compiled by an ‘Independent Expert Panel on Hostility against Muslims (UEM)’ entitled ‘Islamophobia – A German Balance Sheet’, describe in detail over its 400 pages, the nature of a society which is largely hostile ‘either consciously or unconsciously’ to those who exhibit characteristics of being Muslim or are perceived as being Muslim. There is a widespread opinion, the report reveals, that Muslims ‘lack the ability to integrate’, that they have a tendency to distance themselves and avoid contact with people of other faiths and none. Perhaps more worryingly, there is a perception that Muslim men in particular, are naturally inclined to violence, extremism and outdated patriarchal values. The report noted a tendency to equate increased piety/religiousness with fundamentalism and reported that women wearing headscarves and who were more visible, were often the target of public hostility. Those questioned overwhelmingly were in favour of restricting the religious freedoms of Muslims.
Far-right parties present anti-Muslim credentials as central to their dynamic
The Independent panel looked at the structure of the German parliament and the populism which now seems to have taken hold over many of the principal political parties - with the far-right parties such as the ‘Alternative for Germany (AfD)’ and the ‘Christian Democratic Union (CDU)’ both presenting their anti-Muslim credentials as central to the political dynamic. Both of these political parties – which form the biggest opposition block to the ruling centre-left groups such as the Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP), have campaigned on the basis of Islam being alien to the German culture.
Germany's Interior Minister insists the 5.5 million Muslims in Germany are an intrinsic part of German society
The Federal Interior Minister, Nancy Faeser (SPD), did however offer an attempt at a rebuttal to the claim by the far-right parties, when she insisted that the 5.5 million Muslims in Germany were an intrinsic part of German society. She said:
‘Muslim life is a natural part of Germany. We want all people in our diverse society to have the same opportunities and rights…Muslims experience double racism. They are often facing hostility and rejection as members of the Islamic religion, but also as people with immigration background’
Yet, as the report pointed out, very little has been done by the ruling parties to quell the growth in anti-Muslim feeling in German society, largely exasperated by the sizeable influx of over 1 million migrants who were offered under the leadership of Angela Merkel, sanctuary three years ago - many of them Muslims fleeing conflict..
The panel has put forward a number of recommendations including the appointment of a Federal Commissioner to combat hostility toward Muslims. They also recommend the establishment of a permanent council of experts to monitor, police and make progressive recommendations on the issue. The report also includes recommendations to review school education in the classroom – with a need to review textbooks and to remove adverse references to Muslims and Islam. The report goes as far as to recommend the review of popular films and theatre, which it suggests largely (as much as 90%) feature negative tropes of Muslims – linked almost entirely to terrorist attacks, radicalisation and the oppression of women’s rights.
A significant proportion of Islamophobic attacks go unreported due to lack of trust in the authorities
The report was published just weeks after Muslim Community leaders in Germany reported record numbers of Islamophobic attacks, many of which they said went unreported, due to a lack of trust in the authorities. In response to a question posed during PMQ’s in the German parliament, it was revealed that as many as 124 attacks on Muslims and Mosques took place in just the first 90 days of 2023.
According to the recognisably flawed information available from German police records during 2022, there were at least 610 Islamophobic hate crimes, which included attacks on 62 mosques, at which at least 39 people were injured in anti-Muslim violence. There were also two recent high profile cases of arson attacks on Mosques in Dresden and Hannover in May. Burhan Kesici, chairman of the Islamic Council for the Federal Republic of Germany, spoke of these statistics and the sizeable number of unreported attacks on Muslims and Muslim property. He said:
‘The number of attacks against mosques has increased in the past few months … and we assume that the number of unreported cases is much higher. Many Muslims do not report incidents of Islamophobia because such acts are not clearly defined or because they do not trust [the authorities]. So, we assume the number of unreported cases is much higher... sometimes attacks against mosques are not listed under the category of Islamophobic attacks. They are registered in other categories, for example as just arson attacks, so one needs to take a closer look at these statistics’