German Chancellor Angela Merkel has continued to clarify her appeal for tolerance, as she addressed the lower house of the nation's parliament on Thursday regarding the terror attacks that shook Paris last week. Her latest comments were made against a backdrop of an increasingly divided Germany -- split asunder by the issue of immigration.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, German authorities estimate that up to 550 Islamists have left Germany since 2012 and travelled to Syria, where training in terrorist activities can be accessed. Increased fears over their intentions, should they return, have led to growing protests from a group called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West -- otherwise known as Pegida.
As the anti-immigration protests have grown in scale, so has the visibility of Chancellor Merkel's appeal for tolerance -- attending a 3,000 strong peace rally in Berlin on January 13, organized in solidarity with the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris last week. As a public display of rejection of the sentiments of Pegida, the televised event saw the Koran read aloud under the Brandenburg Gate, and German President Joachim Gauck call for unity.
"The terrorists wanted to divide us. They have achieved the opposite. They have brought us together. I say to these fanatics and terrorists: We are not afraid of you. Your hate is our motivation. We stand by our country and its values."
However, just 24 hours earlier, an estimated 25,000 people gathered in Dresden to march with Pegida, while similar events were held across the country -- arguing that open immigration policies have led to Islam becoming a threat to the nation's Judeo-Christian culture. Chancellor Merkel made her position clear ahead of that rally.
"Islam is part of Germany. I am the Chancellor of all Germans. And that includes everyone who lives here permanently, whatever their background or origin."
She is finding her own stance being used against her, however, as the Guardian reports that Pegida supporters repeatedly cite Chancellor Merkel's own 2010 assertion that "multiculturalism has failed." In her speech on Thursday, Chancellor Merkel clarified her sentiments, stating understanding of the concerns of German citizens, and calling for more vocal action from the religious leaders of Islam.
"[It is the assumption of] being allowed to act, punish, kill on God's behalf... But for me, this is nothing but blasphemy. Terrorists' actual motivation is in their conviction that they stand above others because they believe they are God's representative, because they mean to have a historic mission, because they are convinced that they stand above others due to their faith, origin, descent, sex.
"[Germans] want to know why terrorists have so little regard for the value of human life and why they tie their crimes to their faith. They ask how they can trust the phrase that murderers who claim to act in the name of Islam have nothing to do with Islam. I want to emphasise that these are valid questions. I believe we urgently need a clarification of these questions by Islam's religious leaders. This issue can't be evaded any longer."
The specifics of Chancellor Angela Merkel's request for clarification from religious leaders of Islam came after condemnations of the Paris attacks were issued by The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the French Council of the Muslim Religion, Al-Azhar (the institution of religious learning in Cairo), Indonesia ("the world's most populous Muslim nation"), Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Muslim Council of Britain.
[Image via Business Insider]