Anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise across Europe, particularly in Germany, home to more people of Turkish origin than any country outside Turkey.
German prejudice against foreigners has risen sharply, in particular against Muslims, according to a new study from the Leipzig-based Competence Center for Right-Wing Extremism and Democracy Research.
More than 44 percent of those surveyed believe Muslims should be banned from immigrating to Germany, up from 36.5 percent four years ago. And nearly 56 percent agree that the number of Muslims in Germany made them feel like strangers in their own country, up from 43 percent in 2014.
Professor Elmar Braehler, who conducted the research, believes these views are fueling the surge of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which plays up fears of Islamization.
Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, around 3 million are of Turkish origin (the German census does not collect ethnicity data), more than any country outside Turkey.
“People with far-right views are now turning away from the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, “ Braehler told Anadolu Agency, “and finding a new home in the AfD.”
Just this week, more than a dozen graves at a Muslim cemetery in Lower Saxony were desecrated with red swastikas. Last month, arsonists attacked a Turkish restaurant in the eastern city of Chemnitz in a possible hate crime by right-wing extremists. This came weeks after some 8,000 people turned out in the same city for an AfD rally.
However, Germany seems not to be witnessing a return to conservative nationalist views. For instance, LGBT acceptance is on the rise, even as Muslims are viewed with greater suspicion.
An August poll by Playboy found that very few Germans would be troubled by homosexual neighbors (13 percent), while an average of nearly 30 percent (26 percent in western Germany; 33 percent in easter Germany) would not like to have Muslim neighbors, and more than 55 percent would be uncomfortable with a mosque in their neighborhood.
This past weekend, Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered at a speech at a Berlin synagogue marking the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, a night of Nazi-approved attacks on Jews and Jewish businesses widely seen as having kickstarted the Holocaust. She warned of a “worrying anti-Semitism” in Germany today, but failed to mention rising prejudice towards foreigners and Muslims.
Perhaps this is because xenophobia has become commonplace across Europe. In 2017, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, France, Britain, and Germany all recorded peak prejudicial attitudes toward outsiders, be they Muslims, Roma, or Jews, while related hate crimes also spiked.
Turkey has taken note of the rising hatred. Last Friday, the Head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Erbaş called for greater efforts to combat growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe.
“One of the most important areas of joint cooperation now in the European arena is our efforts to eliminate the Islamophobia spread either by enemies or by those who do not know the purpose of this religion,” he said in Istanbul.