Turks, Muslims to protest anti-Islam group in Germany
At least 13 non-governmental organizations of Muslim and ethnic-Turkish immigrants in Germany announced Thursday their joint decision to protest against the right-wing populist PEGIDA movement Anadolu Agency reported
"We are calling on all citizens to join demonstration in Cologne on Jan. 5 and take a stance against racism, xenophobia, hatred against foreigners and hostility against Islam," the organizations said in a joint statement.
"We will support all democratic initiatives and allies that oppose PEGIDA and other groups inspired by it," the statement added.
Germany's Muslim Coordination Council, a platform of four large Muslim organizations in the country, signed the joint statement along with associations representing Turkish-German businessmen, TUMSIAD and MUSIAD-NRW.
Union of European Turkish Democrats, one of the most influential organizations among Germany's three million Turks, also backed the call for joining the counter-protests in Cologne, organized by a German citizen initiative supported by political parties, trade unions and church organizations.
Cologne is one of Germany's most populated cities known for its multi-cultural plurality and large number of immigrants.
A recently formed right-wing anti-Islam movement, Cologne Against Islamization of the West, is also planning a demonstration in the city Monday. The initiative is a copycat group inspired by the Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West or the PEGIDA, which gathered more than 17,000 protesters in the city on Dec. 22. The rise of the right-wing group made headlines in Germany and abroad.
Germany witnessed an increase in suspicion and negative feelings towards Muslims in recent months as far right and populist parties sought to benefit from a growing fear of Islam and Muslims, largely influenced by reports of murders and atrocities committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorist group in the Middle East.
Nearly 30 percent of Germans polled by the Stern magazine said they believed anti-Islam demonstrations organized by PEGIDA were justifiable.
Merkel strongly criticized PEGIDA in her New Year's speech Wednesday and accused the movement of discriminating against people in Germany on the basis of their skin color or religion.
"I would like to say the following to those who are participating in these demonstrations: Do not follow the calls of those organizers because their hearts are cold, often full of prejudice and even hate," Merkel said.
Forsa Institute's poll revealed that while many Germans expressed concerns over what they perceived as Islamization, majority of them did not see any threat and 67 percent of those polled said they viewed talk of a threat of Islamization in Germany as an exaggeration.
The Forsa Institute interviewed 1,006 citizens on Dec. 18, selecting what it said was a representative group reflecting the demographic composition of the German population.