Green party politician and Germany’s new agriculture minister, Cem Özdemir, condemned the recent Islamophobic attack on a Muslim cemetery in the country’s northwest, the German Embassy in Turkey said on Tuesday.
The embassy was referring to the tens of gravestones that were defiled at a Muslim cemetery in the German city of Iserlohn on New Year’s Eve, viewed as the latest indicator of the growing Islamophobic sentiment in Europe.
“The desecration of graves in Iserlohn is deeply repugnant and nothing more than a cowardly anti-Muslim attack. My thoughts are with the relatives of the deceased. I can well imagine what they are feeling. Let's not leave them alone!” Özdemir had voiced on Sunday.
According to local police, about 30 headstones at the Muslim cemetery in Iserlohn were damaged.
Authorities issued an appeal for information from anyone who witnessed the vandalism or has information that could help the investigation.
The attack comes amid a worrying rise in Islamophobic crimes in Germany in recent years.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry earlier expressed its “sadness” in the aftermath of the attack.
The ministry urged officials to find the "perpetrators of this disastrous attack" so they can be "brought to justice and given the punishment they deserve."
It also asked authorities to take the necessary measures to prevent such incidents from happening.
According to a recently published report, titled "European Islamophobia Report 2020," a total of 901 Islamophobic crimes were registered by the Federal Criminal Police Office in Germany in 2020.
Eighteen anti-Islam demonstrations were held and 16 were organized by the racist PEGIDA movement in Germany during the same year.
Furthermore, 2020 saw a rise in online Islamophobia as coronavirus lockdowns were imposed and life shut down across Europe, according to the report.
Islamophobia in Europe has "worsened, if not reached a tipping point," said the report, underlining the fact that even centrist and mainstream political movements on the continent legitimize targeting Muslims with the excuse of fighting extremism.
Germany has experienced a rise in racism and anti-Muslim hatred in recent years. Germany is home to 81 million people and hosts the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Of the country’s nearly 4.7 million Muslims, at least 3 million are of Turkish descent.
The Turkish community in Europe is concerned with the rising trend of Islamophobia and Turkophobia in Western countries and has called on European states to escalate measures against hate crimes.
Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have frequently urged European decision-makers and politicians to take a stance against racism and other types of discrimination that have threatened the lives of millions of people living within the bloc’s borders./DS