BERLIN - Thousands gathers at Berlin’s historical Brandenburg Gate condemning Paris attacks and anti-Islam protests.
Germany’s political and religious leaders, along with representatives from the Muslim community, gathered at Berlin’s historical Brandenburg Gate Tuesday evening to condemn the recent attacks in Paris as well as protests against Islam that have taken place in Germany these past weeks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, cabinet members, leaders of the opposition parties, representatives from Germany’s catholic and evangelical churches and Jewish organizations joined Muslim and Turkish organizations, demonstrating a unified stance.
“Terrorists wanted to divide us. But they have the opposite. They have united us,” German president Joachim Gauck told around 10,000 citizens gathered in Paris square, in front of the Brandenburg Gate.
Gauck said that the terrorists who attacked French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had targeted democracy and open society.
“Our response to fundamentalism of Islamist perpetrators should be democracy, respect of the law, respect of each other, respect of human rights. That is our way of life,” Gauck said.
The German president challenged the growing anti-Islam sentiment manifested in recent demonstrations spurned by populist movements.
He also highlighted the cultural and religious diversity of the country.
“We are all Germany,” Gauck stressed.
He also called on German citizens to engage in efforts against xenophobia anti-Semitism, expressing his concern over a growing number of attacks against mosques and anti-Semitic slogans on the streets.
The protest vigil organized by Turkish and Muslim organizations came after widespread concerns over growing intolerance towards immigrants and Muslims in the country.
Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe, after France. Among the 4 million Muslims in the country, 3 million are of Turkish origin.
Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, have gathered 25,000 protestors in Dresden on Monday. The group started weekly protests in October with only around 500 protesters. It has attracted far right and right wing groups as well as citizens unaffiliated to a political party or group.
On Monday, several groups inspired by PEGIDA also organized anti-Islam protests in Berlin, Hannover, Dusseldorf, Leipzig and Saarbrucken. A total of 5,000 protestors joined these rallies.
The anti-PEGIDA demonstrations on Monday in 11 cities including Munich, Hamburg and Dusseldorf drew more than 102,000 people.