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Mosque attack in Germany sign of growing Islamophobia in Europe

This file photo taken on February 24, 2020 shows cars of the police, the fire brigades and an ambulance in Volkmarsen near Kassel, central Germany. (Photo by AFP)

A mosque in Germany’s Saxony-Anhalt province has been targeted in an assault rifle attack, in a latest case of anti-Muslim violence in Western Europe.

A report in Anadolu Agency, citing a police statement, said two individuals heard shots being fired near the Islamic Cultural Center in Halle, a city in central Germany.

The police discovered three bullets on the ground, the report stated, but no casualties took place.

The suspect was identified as a 55-year old-man living in an apartment across the mosque.

Eyewitnesses had seen him opening fire on the mosque from his home. Two weapons – a long gun and a gas pistol – were recovered from his possession by the police.

The Central Council of Muslims, a leading Islamic organization in Germany, condemned the shooting incident in a statement on Monday.

“Thankfully nobody was injured. Police are still investigating and interrogating. Anti-Muslim hatred and racism are not just in words,” it said, noting that the mosque had faced similar attacks in the past.

"We must continue to work together and resolutely oppose hostility to Islam, anti-Semitism and every form of misanthropy,” it added.

Islamophobia and racism are on the rise in Europe. In Germany, mosques are targeted by supporters of the terrorist organization PKK.

— Kenan ÜLKÜ (@knnu06) January 22, 2022

The attack comes as Germany, especially its eastern part, has experienced a rise in anti-Muslim hate in recent years, fueled by far-right groups and parties after the massive refugee influx into Europe.

Many blame Western powers for the exodus of refugees from their conflict-ridden home countries, where they face violence at the hands of West-backed militant groups.

Germany has seen an alarming rise in racism and anti-Muslim hatred in recent years. The country is home to 81 million people, the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France.

According to a report by TRT World, the percentage of crimes against Muslims in Germany has seen a steady surge over the years.

At least 1,026 crimes against Muslims were recorded in 2020, compared to 950 in 2019, and 910 in 2018, it said in an Instagram post.

The situation in Germany is emblematic of the overall grim situation in Europe – growing hate crimes against Muslims fueled by the rising wave of Islamophobia.

A recent report on Islamophobia in Europe said that hate crimes against Muslims in the continent had "worsened, if not reached a tipping point," over the last two years. 

According to the report, France's systemic pressure on Muslims had seen "increasing number of police searches, threats of eviction, as well as mosques and school closures, including the dissolution of a humanitarian NGO and a human rights organisation defending Muslims in France against racism and discrimination."

The country has closed down more than 17 mosques for violating so-called "security laws" in the last two years, apart from 89 mosques that are under surveillance.

The report further stated that more than 901 Islamophobic crimes were committed in Germany in 2020, 146 of which targeted mosques and 48 of which targeted people.

In May 2021, the upper house of the German parliament moved a legislation that banned all public sector workers from wearing religious symbols, including the hijab or Muslim headscarf. It was as passed as a law in July 2021.

The report censured many European states for failing to report Islamophobic incidents as a “separate category of hate crime.” 

"The recording of anti-Muslim/Islamophobic crimes by the police as a separate category of hate crime is essential to uncover the real extent of this problem and to develop counter-strategies to combat it,” the report noted.

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