Merkel, in Berlin Rally, Urges Germans Not to Marginalize Muslims

The rally took place a day after almost 100,000 people turned out across the country to protest against the growing strength of a German anti-Islam and anti-refugee movement called Pegida.

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Merkel, front third from left, together with other politicians, attends a vigil organized by the German Muslim Council to commemorate the victims of the Paris shootings. Berlin, Jan. 13, 2015.Credit: AP

Chancellor Angela Merkel and members of her cabinet joined a rally in Berlin on Tuesday in support of religious tolerance and openness organized by Germany's Muslim leaders.

The event at the capital's historic Brandenburg Gate also honoured the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris by suspected Islamist gunmen.

"Let us stand together for each other. Terror: not in our name!" was the slogan of the gathering, which was called by the Central Council of Muslims in Germany and the Turkish Community in Berlin.

Politicians, along with trade unionists, business leaders and members of the Christian and Jewish communities also attend the rally.

German President Joachim Gauck was due to address the rally later Tuesday.
A former pastor and human rights activist from communist East Germany, Gauck has been Germany's head of state since March 2012.

The rally follows last week's deadly attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

"This kind of attack cannot be ruled out in Germany," said German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office has said there is no concrete evidence of any current terrorist plots in the country. An agency spokeswoman said about 260 radical Islamists are believed to be residing in Germany.

The rally took place a day after almost 100,000 people turned out across the country to protest against the growing strength of a German anti-Islam and anti-refugee movement called Pegida.

Despite appeals by politicians to stay away, 25,000 people took to the streets of the eastern city of Dresden on Monday to take part in Pegida's latest march. Pegida stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.

Merkel on Tuesday once again roundly criticized the Pegida organizers, warning against "differentiation and exclusion."

"People who ... come to us out of fear for their lives, seeking protection, have a right to be treated decently here," Merkel told a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Vereins Deutsche Gesellschaft - an association which promotes political, cultural and social relations in Europe.

"We have to turn against anything that prejudices those who have foreign roots and are the most vulnerable in society," she said.

Dresden has emerged as the focal point of the anti-Islam movement, with the numbers attending its regular Monday rallies steadily growing since they were first launched in the city three months ago.

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