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Anti-Muslim sentiments rise in Germany
Tuesday December 16, 2014 10:21 PM, IINA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faces challenges from allies and rivals to confront a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment driving increasingly popular anti-Islam marches in the city of Dresden every Monday.

Germany anti-Muslim march

With thousands expected at the next march, Merkel is in a dilemma. Her security officials are warning of an increase in hate crimes, while opinion polls show support for the marchers' calls for a tougher German immigration policy.

"There is a visible rise in xenophobic crime countrywide," police chief Holger Muench told Welt a.m.

Sonntag, which like most German Sunday newspapers focused on Monday's march by a group calling itself PEGIDA — an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West."

There has been a spike in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiment this year, with right-wingers joining soccer hooligans to fight Muslims and a spate of attacks on Jews.

At the same time, with record levels of immigration, Germany has become Europe's biggest recipient of asylum-seekers.

Merkel said on Friday there was "no place in Germany" for hatred of Muslims or any other minority.

But her Social Democrat (SPD) coalition allies, the opposition Greens and the fast-growing Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD) all seem to have spotted a chance to undermine the popular chancellor, whose approval rating was 76 percent in a poll in the Bild a.m. Sonntag newspaper.

The SPD, seething at Merkel's remarks that they had declared political bankruptcy by allying with former communists in one eastern state, challenged her to respond to what senior SPD lawmaker Thomas Oppermann called "probably the biggest issue of the next decade."

Greens leader Cem Oezdemir, who will join a counter-protest in Dresden, urged her "to recognize clearly that Germany is a country for immigrants and benefits from them."

In fact, Merkel often says Germany needs more immigrants to boost its workforce.

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