German Muslims angry at ‘anti-foreigner’ campaign

BERLIN – German Muslim groups on Wednesday accused a senior politician in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party of stirring up hostility against foreigners in a bid to win a regional election.

Roland Koch of the Christian Democrats (CDU) has focused his campaign for re-election as premier of the prosperous western state of Hesse on crime, in particular offences by foreigners. He reacted to an assault on a German pensioner by two youths – one Greek, one Turkish – in a Munich railway station by saying Germany had too many young foreign criminals and urging an end to “multicultural” coddling of immigrants.

The brutal attack, caught on a surveillance camera and played repeatedly on German television in recent days, prompted calls for tougher sentencing, boot camps and even the deportation of criminals of foreign origins.

“The debate is shameful and scandalous,” head of the TGD Turkish Communities in Germany Kenan Kolat told Reuters on Wednesday, saying the deportation issue was “political arson”. “This is pure populism,” he said, urging Merkel to speak out against it.

Germany is home to about 15 million people with an immigrant background – about 18 percent of the population – and Merkel has talked often about the need to integrate the country’s 3.2 million Muslims, most of whom are of Turkish origin. But she says immigrants must accept German culture and won rapturous applause at a conference of her mostly Roman Catholic party last month for saying mosques should not dwarf churches.

Reuters, 2 January 2008

Update:  See also criticisms by Stephen Kramer of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who has said that Koch’s campaign “can hardly be distinguished from the NPD,” a neo-Nazi party.