Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans not to marginalize Muslims or other minorities Tuesday, as the country’s political leaders prepared to take part in a rally meant to counter growing anti-Islam protests in Germany.
Merkel has taken a strong public stance in recent weeks against groups such as Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA. The group mobilized 25,000 supporters Monday for an anti-Islam protest in the eastern city of Dresden.
“Excluding population groups due to their faith or their origin is beneath the dignity of our liberal state,” she said in a speech in Berlin. “Hatred of foreigners, racism and extremism have no place in this country.”
Merkel will be joined by German President Joachim Gauck at a rally organized by Muslim groups near Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate.
PEGIDA’s anti-Islam protests began twelve weeks ago and have grown steadily, tapping into fears among some Germans that the country is being flooded by Muslim immigrants.
Germany has some 4 million Muslim residents, mostly of Turkish origin. That is equivalent to about 5 percent of the population of 80 million.