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11/25/2010 02:46 PM

Finger Pointing or Tough Talk?

Politician Urges German Muslims To 'Keep an Eye out for Fanatics'

Germany is on high alert after last week's terror warnings. On Thursday a conservative politician sent a strong message to the Muslim community, urging scrutiny for "possible fanatics" attending mosques. Germany's Muslim organization, however, argues that politicians' rhetoric is divisive.

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière has urged level-headedness in the midst of escalating terror warnings. Despite his call, politicians across the board are airing their views on how to prevent attacks. In the latest development, a politician from the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union, has told Muslims to stay alert, arguing that members of the country's 2,500 mosque congregations should increase their vigilance.

"Mosque communities are called on to be especially watchful and keep an eye out for possible fanatics in their ranks, in the light of the current situation," Stefan Müller, a spokesman on integration issues for the two parties in the federal parliament, told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung in an interview published on Thursday.

The majority of Muslims do not have anything to do with terrorism, said the CSU politician, adding, "it is also in their personal interest to avert the misuse of Islam by radicals." He urged the community to "intensify cooperation with security authorities and give early warning in any suspicious cases."

But the Central Council of Muslims, one of a number of organizations in Germany seeking to represent the broad Muslim population, has warned that Muslims in Germany have been discriminated against on the basis of their religion amid the terror scare. They report that mosques have been the target of attacks and hate mail as a result.

"We appeal to politicians and the media to deal with the discussions rationally and not to mention Islamic community, Islam and Muslims and terror in the same breath," the organization said in a press release on Wednesday.

'General Suspicion'

Against a backdrop of concrete terrorist threats in Germany, Interior Minister de Maizière has warned against Muslims living in the country being treated with "general suspicion."

Volker Bouffier, governor of the state of Hesse, distanced himself from Müller's call. "A certain vigilance doesn't harm," the conservative politician told the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper.

But he said it was an over-reaction to ask Germans to report everything which they found suspicious. "It must not become a game of finger pointing along the lines of 'I saw someone who looked a bit funny.'"

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière issued a terror alert last Wednesday, warning that Islamists might be planning an attack in Germany to take place before the end of November.

Since then, extra police have been sent to patrol airports, major train stations and public places with submachine guns. The iconic glass dome of the government's Reichstag, the house of parliament and one of the capital's top tourist attractions, has also been closed this week. Security has also been tightened at Germany's world-famous Christmas markets.

jas/spiegel

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