Mosque attacks show xenophobia on the rise in Germany

In 2009, two mosques were vandalised in the country. The number rose sharply to 99 in 2015.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Police inspect the front of a mosque damaged in a bomb attack on September 27, 2016 in Dresden, Germany.

On a cold September evening in the German town of Dresden a bomb exploded outside a mosque. No one was hurt, but the sense of fear that had gripped Muslims in the city since 2015 reached fever pitch. 

"We have been expecting something like this for a long time," said Mehmet Demirbas, the founder of the mosque that was attacked. He said that while such incidents were common elsewhere, Germany had largely avoided xenophobic attacks.

But that has now changed, said Demirbas.

"We have to stay alert and keep our eyes open and stop someone trying this in future."

In the past year eastern Germany has become a centre of anti-Muslim sentiment, as a backlash against refugees gains momentum. Far right groups have been protesting against the influx of over a million refugees, many of the settling in the east of the country.

"It’s a very dangerous time for Muslims in some parts of Germany," said Burhan Kesici, the director of Germany’s Islamic council, Islamrat.

According to Kesici, there are millions of Muslims who peacefully practice their religion in Germany but attacks on places of worship were a worrying sign of changing attitudes towards immigrants in general and Muslims in particular.

"Some extremist groups see the mainly Muslim refugees as a threat to the republic," he said.

Data gathered by Kesici’s organisation shows a significant rise in attacks on Muslim places of worship. In 2009, two mosques were vandalised in the country. That number rose to 99 in 2015.

"The authorities haven’t done enough to stop attacks on mosques," said Murat Gul, the president of the Islamic federation of Berlin.

Murat, who was born and raised in Germany but is of Turkish origin, said the country still offered the safest environment for Muslims to practice their religion "compared to other places in Europe," but the current spate of violence against Muslims had largely gone unreported and attacks haven't been investigated properly.

"There have been no arrests so far in connection with the mosque attacks this year," said Murat.

"We do not want this in Germany regardless of who is being targeted," said Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere after the latest mosque attack in Dresden.  

De Maiziere said the attacks were a sign of rising "aggression" against the Muslim community, but the government was committed to ensuring security for all Germans regardless of faith. 

In 2014, arsonists destroyed parts of Germany’s largest mosque in Berlin’s Kruezberg area. When TRT World visited Mevlana Camii, repair works were still under way.

Berlin's famous Mevlana mosque was damaged in an attack in 2014.

"The facade was completely destroyed, but the community has come together to rebuild it," Murat said during a tour of the historic mosque.

Germany is often cited as an example of the successful integration of Muslim migrants. A majority of Muslims in Germany are immigrants from Turkey who came to the country in search of economic opportunities.

But the current wave of Muslims coming to Germany are refugees mainly from Syria.

"The Syrians are viewed differently than migrants who came in the past because they’re escaping war and terrorism back home," said Kesici.

But what is more worrying for Kesici is the fact that even the Muslims who were born and raised in Germany are now being viewed as outsiders.

Authors: Ali Mustafa, Bunyamin Kasap, Ilker Tas