German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out strongly on Thursday against ostracism of Muslims following last week’s attacks in France, but said it is also urgent for clerics to draw a clear line between Islam and terrorism.
Merkel spoke after the German Parliament paid tribute to the 17 terrorist attack victims, standing for a moment of silence.
The Paris attacks came as Germany grapples with how to respond to rallies in the eastern city of Dresden by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, which drew its biggest attendance yet on Monday.
Merkel has criticized those demonstrations and said this week she agreed with a former German president’s statement that Islam now “belongs to Germany.”
“We will not allow ourselves to be divided by those who, in the face of Islamist terror, place Muslims in Germany under general suspicion,” she told lawmakers, without referring explicitly to PEGIDA.
“There must be no ostracism of Muslims, no sweeping suspicions,” she said. “As chancellor, I will come to the defense of Muslims in this country against that.”
However, she acknowledged that there is some unease about Islam.
“Most people in Germany are not enemies of Islam – they are uncertain in their verdict, even perplexed,” she said.
People want to know why terrorists have so little regard for human life and repeatedly cite religion as motivation, Merkel said, and they ask “how we can still follow the often-repeated sentence that murderers who cite Islam for their deeds have nothing to do with Islam.”
“I think it is important and urgent for these questions to be cleared up by Islamic clergy,” she said. SAPA