Islam belongs to Germany: Angela Merkel

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Berlin, Jan 13: Amid mounting tensions over Islamophobia triggered by terror attacks in Paris, Chancellor Angela Merkel has assured Germany's four million-strong Muslim community that they are an integral part of the society, saying "Islam belongs to Germany".

"Our former President Christian Wulff said that Islam belongs to Germany. This is the case and I too hold the same view," she said at a press conference here yesterday during a visit by Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Merkel to join Islamic rally

Merkel said she is the chancellor of "all Germans" and this applies to all those who have been living permanently in this country. With over four million people, Germany has the second largest Muslim community in Europe after France and three million of them are of Turkish origin.

However, she stressed the need for further strengthening the dialogue between religions as there is still "lots of ignorance". Merkel's comments come as leaders tried to stem the rise of an Islamophobia in the country following last week's terror attacks by suspected radical Islamists in Paris, which killed 17 people.

Tensions have also been running high over migration sparked by an influx of refugees fleeing the fighting in Syria and Iraq. Germany has been experiencing a surge in anti-Islam demonstrations across the country since they began in in the eastern city of Dresden in September-end.

Organised by the right-wing populist Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA), the weekly anti- Islam rallies have been protesting against the government's asylum policy and "Islamisation of Germany".

The 12th demonstration in Dresden, that attracted around 25,000 people, was the largest so far, according to police estimates. Chancellor Merkel and her entire cabinet as well as President Joachim Gauck are scheduled to attend a unity rally here today organised by Germany's Muslim organisations in the wake of the Paris attacks.

"Germany wants peaceful co-existence of Muslims and members of other religions," Merkel told reporters after talks with Davutoglu, adding that today's vigil would send "a very strong message".

At the joint news conference, Davutoglu rejected "unjustified accusations" that his country was doing very little in the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq, saying Turkey is prepared for every intelligence cooperation.

The premier also sharply criticised the tendency in the West to link Islam with terrorism. He said he wished the international community would have condemned the attack in Istanbul last week as strongly as the massacre in Paris.

PTI

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