Increase in violent attacks against mosques and Muslims in Germany

There were a total of 768 violent attacks against mosques and Muslims in Germany between January 2014 and June 2021. In particular, the years 2020 and 2021 stand out, with more than 140 attacks, although the unreported number of these Hostile actions – including vandalism, incitement, arson and bodily harm – is likely to be significantly higher.

There have already been numerous attacks on mosques this year. In January, the WSWS reported that the Islamic cultural center Halle Saale eV was shot down with an air rifle.

The attacked mosque in Halle (Photo: Islamisches Kulturcenter Halle Saale eV via Facebook)

The figures were released by Brandeilig.org, the first national center for reporting anti-Muslim racism. The independent anti-discrimination organization Federation Against Injustice and Racism eV (FAIR), based in Cologne, has launched the initiative to raise awareness of anti-Muslim racism in society.

According to the Interior Ministry, between 4.4 and 4.7 million Muslims live in Germany, just over 5% of the total population. Most are from Turkey, although one in two Muslims now comes from another country. There are also around 2,350 mosques throughout the country. Germany thus has the second largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France.

Through annual reports, Brandeilig.org now wants to fill in the existing information gaps regarding attacks on mosques and violence against Muslims. Last May, the initiative published the inaugural Brandeilig report, for 2018, as it was the first year in which a reliable amount of information was available; other reports will follow.

Information was collected on the numerical extent of the attacks, in which federal states they occurred, the motivation for the crime as well as the sequence of events and types of attacks.

For 2018, Brandeilig.org recorded a total of 120 violent attacks. Overall, violence of varying degrees was used in 84% of cases, in addition to considerable damage to property and persons. In 4% of cases, perpetrators left pork limbs near mosques, a particularly disgusting action, as many Muslims do not eat pork for religious reasons.

Bavaria recorded the highest incidence of violence against Muslims or mosques, with 25 attacks, or 21% of the total. North Rhine-Westphalia follows closely with 23 attacks (19%). There were 14 attacks in Lower Saxony and 12 in Baden-Württemberg, each corresponding to about a tenth of the total number.

Violence against Muslims has also occurred in 10 other federal states, with some people fearing for their lives. Only in Brandenburg and Saarland were no attacks on Muslims or mosques recorded by Brandeilig.org in 2018.

A total of 54 attacks, almost half of all incidents, can be traced to the far-right specter. In seven cases, the offense was characterized by the use of racist vocabulary or racist symbolism (for example, painting buildings with swastikas).

The most common type of attack (44%) was vandalism of any kind. This included graffiti, leaving an animal carcass or shattered windows, where overall crime patterns are subject to a broad spectrum. There were also nine attacks in the form of arson, for example the use of homemade Molotov cocktails against mosques, in which two people were injured.

Other types of attacks recorded were incitement (21), insults (7) or threatening behavior (7). Two people were injured by the use of air rifles. Premises associated with a mosque, such as libraries, reception halls or residential units, were also attacked.

A particularly repugnant act, which the report says cannot be categorized but appears to have a far-right background, occurred in Bavaria. On the construction site of a mosque in Regensburg, crosses have been erected bearing the names of the victims of the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels. At the time, the right-wing Bavarian Identity Movement claimed responsibility for the Regensburg incident. This was an attempt to label all members of the Muslim religious community as terrorists and stigmatize them, although this is not stated in the report.

By conducting an additional survey of 68 of the 120 affected communities, the Brandeilig Initiative was also able to paint a more detailed picture of the extent of violence against Muslims.

In the process, 77% of respondents said they repaired the damage themselves because the insurance company would not cover the costs. Around €211,230 was raised through donations to pay for these repairs. While the report does not provide any information on the financial extent of the property damage, the money collected for repairs gives at least a rough idea of ​​its extent. In one case, the insurance company terminated the contract with the affected municipality after the costs were covered.

It is also alarming that around half of those surveyed answered “yes” to the question of whether there had been previous attacks. Moreover, in some cases, the police were not notified until the assaults had become more frequent. This underscores the assumption that there was far more hostility than is documented by Brandeilig.org.

While the Brandeilig Report details attacks on mosques and Muslims in Germany, making an important contribution to publicizing these crimes, the causes of this wave of violence are only superficially discussed and largely obscured.

The report’s authors say “the right-wing populist wing in the German party political landscape is gaining strength and that extra-parliamentary right-wing extremist and Islamophobic groups” are also cause for concern. However, the report also says there is virtually no “awareness in society as a whole of the seriousness of the situation”.

The main responsibility for the growing violence against Muslims lies with the ruling class, which has moved increasingly to the right in recent years. He created the ideological climate and political structures in which violence against Muslims and other minorities is currently taking place.

Leaders of all establishment parties and the media have joined in the agitation against Muslims. At the same time, the federal and state governments adopted the de facto far-right anti-refugee policy Alternative for Germany (AfD). Since entering the Bundestag in 2017, the AfD has been included in all parliamentary work, even functioning as the official opposition under the last government.

Far-right forces and terrorist structures, often closely tied to the state apparatus, are emboldened by this and increasingly willing to resort to lethal violence. In recent years, the Hanau massacre (11 dead), the attack on the synagogue in Halle (2 dead) and the assassination of the leader of the Christian Democratic Union Walter Lübcke have been three of the worst extreme terrorist attacks right in Germany since the end of the Second World War. Right-wing violence can only be stopped by the independent intervention of the working class, which vehemently opposes right-wing extremism, militarism and war.

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