By Mesut Zeyrek

COLOGNE (AA): Germany’s Turkish-Muslim community is alarmed by the increase in Islamophobic hate crimes, senior figures told Anadolu Agency Monday.

Kemal Ergun, president of the Turkish-Muslim association IGMG, said more and more mosques have become the targets of threats, vandalism or arson in recent months.

“At least 122 mosques were targeted in such attacks last year,” he said, adding that dozens of mosques received multiple bomb threats by neo-Nazis or other extremist groups, sparking worry among the members of the community.

“We call on the police authorities to conduct more effective investigations and arrest the perpetrators of these attacks,” he said.

Ergun, who leads one of the largest Turkish-Muslim organizations in the country, said Muslims were experiencing more hostility and discrimination in their daily lives due to the rise of anti-Muslim prejudice.

He said Muslim women in particular who wear headscarves have frequently been verbally harassed on the streets, and that incidents of physical assault have reportedly also been on the rise.

According to official figures, police recorded 632 Islamophobic crimes in Germany from January to November 2020.

These included insults, threatening letters, disruption of religious practice, physical assaults and damage to property.

The real figures are believed to be higher, as many victims do not file criminal complaints with the police, largely due to their distrust of law enforcement.

Durmus Yildirim, chairman of ATIB, one of the largest Turkish-Muslim cultural organizations in Germany, criticized right-wing populist politicians for inciting hatred and discrimination against immigrants and Muslims.

“We want an end to this racist and populist rhetoric, efforts should be made for peaceful coexistence,” he told Anadolu Agency, calling for a stronger stance against anti-Muslim and anti-Turkish hatred.

Yildirim said the country’s 3-million-strong Turkish community would not give in to threats by far-right groups and parties.

“We are part of Europe, we’re living together here. Our third, fourth generations were born and raised in Germany, it has also become our homeland,” he said.

A country of over 80 million people, Germany has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish origin.

The country has witnessed growing racism and Islamophobia in recent years, fueled by the propaganda of neo-Nazi groups and the far-right opposition AfD party, which has attempted to stoke fear of Muslims and immigrants to win more votes.

[Archive photo:  People visit Martyrs Mosque in Berlin as mosques around Germany opened their doors to non-Muslims by Germany’s Muslim Coordination Council (KRM) on October 3, 2019. Photographer Abdulhamid Hoşbaş/AA]