Germany sees almost 1,000 anti-Muslim crimes in 2017

Germany's Interior Ministry says that at least 950 hate crimes were committed against Muslims or mosques in the country in 2017, a newspaper has reported. Thirty-three people were injured in attacks.

Anti-Muslim crimes, including physical assault, threatening letters, hate speech and spraying Nazi-themed graffiti on mosques, were rife in Germany in 2017, a newspaper reported on Saturday, citing statistics from the Interior Ministry.

The Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper said the ministry had recorded at least 950 such offenses, most of them carried out by right-wing extremists, with 33 people hurt in attacks.

Some 60 attacks and acts of desecration were committed against mosques and other Islamic institutions, the paper said. In some cases, pig's blood was smeared on buildings or Nazi symbols were sprayed on walls.

Read moreMuslims 'integrate' well into Germany — but aren't accepted 

Anti-Islam demonstrations

Around 90 demonstrations against the alleged "Islamization" of Germany were also included in the figures, which were provided to the Bundestag in response to a request by the Left Party. That number does not include marches by the anti-immigration group PEGIDA.

The number of offenses tailed off  toward the end of the year, with 167 crimes reported in the last quarter compared with 288 in the third.

No comparison could be made with the previous year, as German authorities did not start specifically recording anti-Islam crimes until the start of 2017.

Read moreIslam in Germany: Muslims prefer to be talked to rather than talked about 

This mosque in Dresden was attacked with explosives

'Poisoning the social climate'

The chair of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, told the newspaper that he was sure that the number of crimes was higher, saying there was not yet enough awareness on the part of police and prosecutors regarding anti-Muslim offenses.

The Left Party's expert for internal affairs, Ulla Jelpke, welcomed the recent reduction in the anti-Muslim crime rate, but said there was no reason to be complacent. She also warned that "Islam haters" had made it into the German parliament, in a reference to the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which currently holds 92 seats in the 709-seat assembly.

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"The haters of Islam have now made the jump from the streets into the Bundestag and contribute to poisoning the social climate with regard to Muslim life in Germany from the parliamentary tribune," she said.

Read moreIs Islam changing Germany?

Open house at Germany's mosques

German mosques - German unity

The "Day of Open Mosques" has taken place since 1997 on the Day of German Unity – Germany's national holiday. The date was deliberately chosen to express Muslims' connection to the German people and how they consider themselves part of German Unity, the Central Council of Muslims explains. About 100,000 visitors are expected – here, some are seen standing in front of Berlin's Sehitlik Mosque.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Mosques for all

On this day, Muslim communities want to give visitors an understanding of Islam, so where better than an actual mosque? Far more than just places for prayer, mosques also serve as gathering points for creating community and social interaction. The word "mosque" derives from the Arabic word "majid," which means "place for prostration in prayer."

Open house at Germany's mosques

Rituals and rules

Part of getting to know Islam is becoming familiar with its rituals and rules. One initial ritual before entering the mosque involves removing one's shoes before entering the prayer room. There is a focus on cleanliness and purification: before each prayer, Muslims carry out a ritual ablution. Because worshipers touch the prayer rug with their foreheads, the carpets must always be clean too.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Architecture and history

Most mosques offer guided tours, as seen above with this mosque in Hürth near Cologne. Here, visitors can get a picture of Islamic architecture, history and day-to-day life in a mosque, and hence understand more about how Islamic communities in Germany gather and build community.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Sharing spirit

The Merkez mosque in Duisburg, opened in 2008, is the largest mosque in Germany. Integration work is one of the focal points for Duisburg's Muslim community. Besides guided tours through the mosque, visitors get the chance to attend noon and afternoon prayers. Afterwards, visitors are invited for a cup of tea.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Sharing salah

Experiencing an Islamic prayer is one point of the agenda for the October 3 event. But the actual area for prayers is off-limits for visitors. As can be seen in the Sehitlik mosque here, visitors listen to prayers from a grandstand. The word for prayer in Arabic is "salah" or "salat," which literally means "connection to God."

Open house at Germany's mosques

Misbaha and rosary

This boy was given a chain with prayer beads during the Day of Open Mosques at the Frankfurt. The faithful move the beads through their fingers to repeat prayers and chants, just as is done in Christendom and Buddhism. This chain, consisting of at least 33 beads, is called "tasbih" or "misbaha" in Islam. The beads prove to be useful when reciting Allah's 99 names.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Intercultural dialogue

Mosques in Germany open their doors for cultural understanding on other occasions, too. For instance, during the German Catholic Convention, Catholic nuns take part in guided tours, as seen here in the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque in Mannheim. Such occasions offer an opportunity for Catholicism and Islam to cultivate a close relationship.

Open house at Germany's mosques

Breaking down prejudices

Mosques in Dresden invite visitors to cultural exchange as well. The Al-Mostafa mosque has already published a schedule of events: there will be lectures held by the imam about Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran, as well as conversation hours to share refreshments, learn and discuss. In a city where the Islamophobic PEGIDA group made headlines, this offering is especially important.

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