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Opinion: Religious extremists are the real enemy of Germany’s Muslims | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A participant of a rally called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) waves with a German flag during a demonstration, and another demonstrator carries a banner with the word, “Foreign in our own country? Never,” in Dresden, Germany, on January 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

It is not difficult to sum up the situation in Germany: there are bad Muslims and bad Germans. The 18,000 Germans who took to the streets of Dresden against what they dubbed the “Islamization of Germany” include racists as well as people angered by the heinous and ugly political acts committed by Muslims across the world. Among these Germans are those who blame others for the difficult economic situation they find themselves in, specifically the influx of foreigners which has led to competition over jobs and benefits.

Germany itself is home to some Muslim religious and political extremists who have distorted the image of the rest of the 3 million Muslims who live peacefully in Germany. Muslim extremists in Germany are more dangerous and harmful to Muslims than angry, racist and fascist Germans. Germany is a tolerant, secular and civil state that has 2,500 mosques. Its regulations, courts and executive institutions protect the Muslim community from racist groups. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the anti-Islam protests as a detestable act. The justice minister also led a protest against racists in the same square as the anti-Islam rally.

Arabs make up a small minority of Muslims in Germany. Moroccans, who rank fourth after the Turks, Bosnians and Iranians, account for 80,000 persons. Those of Lebanese origin rank sixth with just 50,000 immigrants.

The talk about the Islamization of Germany is nothing more than a silly scarecrow. After all, Muslims are a small minority, and it is said that the number of Germans who converted to Islam comes in at 100,000, which is a small number considering the country’s population of 80 million. Most of those who converted most likely did so following mixed marriages and not due to preaching. Muslims have been persecuted following the damage to their image and that of their religion. This has occurred ever since Al-Qaeda surfaced and also due to the massive propaganda of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which made headlines with violent practices such as the beheading of Western hostages.

The 3 million Muslims residing in Germany cannot do much to defend their image because the Islamic region is rife with awful images and news which is used by racists to incite people against Islam and against peaceful Muslims who live in the West and other countries. What is always worth a shot, by Germany’s Muslims and other Germans, is directing their anger towards Muslim extremists, expelling them from their communities and distancing them from their schools and children. Fighting Muslim extremists in Germany is more important to Muslims than fighting German racists whom the state will deal with and punish. Perhaps the state will roll up its sleeves and also fight Muslim extremists as it is not possible—and unacceptable—that the war only be waged against racists while overlooking extremist Muslims. Those extremist Muslims exploit the tolerance and civil rights granted to them as members of society in order to market a culture of hatred, incite violence against followers of other religions, and seek to control Muslim schools, mosques and charity and humanitarian institutions.

This stance does not protect Germany from the alleged Islamization but it saves Muslims from the rotten apples among them and from those who sabotage their communities, destroy them, or impose their extremist ideology on their people. Those who deserve freedom in civil societies are those individuals who respect freedom and not those who exploit it to serve their own interests.