The ongoing conflict in Gaza in the aftermath of ‘ October 7 terror attacks against Israel looked sure to overshadow the German government’s annual conference in Berlin on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said ahead of the event on ARD television that she was hoping for Islamic bodies in to clearly condemn Hamas’ attacks at the event, with fueling displeasure among parts of Germany’s large Muslim community.
“I expect from Muslim organizations that they make very clear comments and assume their responsibility in society,” said Faeser. She said faith groups should “very clearly condemn” Hamas’ attack and not resort to “any yes, buts” when addressing the issue.
“It must be quite clear, we stand on Israel’s side,” said Faeser, of the governing center-left Social Democrats. She added that while some such organizations had “very much” acted on their responsibilities, “others really haven’t.”
Focus on ‘fighting antisemitism and Islamophobia in times of societal division’
The Islam Conference is described by its organizers as the central forum to “maintain a regular and ongoing dialogue between all levels of government and Muslims and their representatives in Germany,” involving “leading Islamic organizations, new initiatives outside of traditional mosque structures, Muslim individuals as well as representatives of politics, administration and science.”
This year’s event was already set to explore issues including online hate speech and discrimination, given the title for proceedings at the Interior Ministry: “Social peace and democratic cohesion: in times of social division.”
One major Muslim organization in Germany, the Central Council of Muslims, was not invited to this year’s event. Its chairman, Aiman Mazyek, told RBB radio in Berlin on Tuesday that he was surprised not to be invited, saying that an exchange of views was particularly important at present.
Mazyek said a balance needed to be struck, between “condemning extremism like Hamas’ terrorism on October 7 and on the other side making clear that the war in Gaza, the Israeli bombardment, cannot continue.” He said the past few weeks had been challenging for Muslims in Germany.
“Many Muslims in our country are unsettled, are afraid to speak up at all; they feel browbeaten by the debate,” Mazyek said.
Public discourse in Germany has been considerably affected by the last six weeks of conflict in the Middle East.
Faeser also said on Tuesday that German authorities weren’t keen to place anybody under general suspicion. She said Muslims should be able to demonstrate on the streets in support of victims in the , but within limits.
“We’re fighting Islamists, not Muslims,” Faeser said.
Protests in support of the Palestinian cause of urging a cease-fire have gathered pace in Germany, as in much of Europe, in recent weeks, .
Bavarian police announce raids on antisemitism suspects
Meanwhile, in , police and the state government were also drawing attention to online antisemitism early on Tuesday, as police announced what they billed as an “Action Day Plus against Antisemitism.”
Police conducted raids across the state targeting 17 suspects, nine of them in Bavaria’s capital, Munich, between the ages of 18 and 62. Fifteen were men, the other two women.
“The objects of the investigations are crimes from various political areas, but in particular cases with connections to the attacks of the terrorist organization Hamas on Israel were incorporated,” investigators said.
Munich’s public prosecutors office and the state’s investigative LKA police force announced the operation, but Bavaria’s justice and interior ministers also commented on the action.
“After the Hamas terror attack on Israel ,” said Bavarian Justice Minister Georg Eisenreich. “It must be clear to perpetrators: [Bavaria] pursues antisemitic crimes with the full force of the law.”
Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, meanwhile, described antisemitic hate speech as no trivial crime, adding it “can be a precursor to further escalations.” He said authorities therefore pursued all cases, “also in order to scare off potential agitators.”
Judging by the examples shared by law enforcement, Tuesday’s arrests primarily targeted comments made on social media or in online communications.
Investigators cited three examples, one involving a German-Turkish citizen and another a Turkish citizen, of social media or WhatsApp group chat comments mixing appeals for a “free Palestine” with references to the Holocaust or Adolf Hitler.
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msh/wmr (AFP, dpa, KNA)
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