Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Religious violence in Netherlands alarms Germany

BERLIN - There is growing alarm in Germany over the torching of mosques, churches and schools in the Netherlands following the brutal killing of Islam-critical film director Theo van Gogh.

With 3.4 million Muslims comprising 4 percent of Germany's population, the question was put this way by a banner headline in the conservative Bild newspaper: 'Is the hate going to come here?' asked the biggest selling tabloid.

The Berliner Zeitung, a left-leaning paper in the German capital where about 200,000 mainly Turkish Muslims live, claims to know the answer: 'The feelings of hated against the majority Christian society are growing.'

So far there has not been a high profile killing in Germany to match the stabbing and shooting of van Gogh. But a series of attacks on Jews in Berlin by Arab youths have sharply raised concerns.

Germany's tough-minded interior minister, Otto Schily, spoke at the weekend of 'a danger' to the country despite successes in integrating the majority of immigrants.

Schily drew headlines earlier this year with a harsh warning to Islamic fundamentalists: 'If you love death so much, then it can be yours.'

German opposition conservatives are demanding a ban on preaching in mosques in any language other than German.

Calls for such a move were fuelled by a dramatic TV film secretly made last week in a Berlin mosque.

'These Germans, these atheists, these Europeans don't shave under their arms and their sweat collects under their hair with a revolting smell and they stink,' said the preacher at the Mevlana Mosque in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, in the film made by Germany's ZDF public TV, adding: 'Hell lives for the infidels! Down with all democracies and all democrats!'

There are also demands for loosening German laws to make it easier to expel foreign extremists after years of wrangles to win approval for deportation of radical Turkish Islamist, Metin Kaplan, the self- styled 'Caliph of Cologne'.

Udo Ulfkotte, a German journalist who has received death threats since writing a critical book on Islam titled 'The War in our Cities,' underlines that many of the group responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US had lived in Germany.

Asked about van Gogh's killing, Ulfkotte said: 'The spark could jump over here at any time. We just need a provocation like in Holland. Islamists in Germany approved of (van Gogh's) murder and many of them actually cheered it.' "