Leading representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious organisations, as well as the heads of employer associations and unions, and of umbrella associations in the fields of culture, sports and social welfare joined hands in the creation of the ‘Alliance for Open-Mindedness’. According to Zekeriya Altug, spokesman of the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, the Alliance’s objective is to speak out against fringe movements – especially those from the populist far-right – claiming to represent the societal mainstream. This sentiment – a thinly veiled reference to right-wing protestors to chant ‘We are the people!’ at their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rallies – was echoed by the leaders of the other confessional organisations. The Alliance conceives of itself as a civil society platform without any party affiliation, seeking to offer a space for religious and social dialogue. Under the header ‘human dignity shall be inviolable’, the Alliance issued an initial proclamation demanding a less hysterical debate on questions of immigration and integration that would remain mindful of fundamental commitments to human rights and to the German Basic Law.
Violent clashes between anti-Islam demonstrators and Muslim counter-protesters in English cities are worrying the government, with one British minister comparing the disturbances to 1930s-era fascist incitement. The violence that has hit Luton, Birmingham and London in the last few months has involved a loose collection of far-right groups — such as the previously unknown English Defense League — on one side and anti-fascist organizations and Muslim youth on the other.
In an interview published Saturday, Communities Minister John Denham accused the anti-Islam protesters of deliberately stirring up trouble. “The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far-right and among extremist groups,” Denham was quoted as saying by The Guardian newspaper. “You could go back to the 1930s if you wanted to — Cable Street.”
Denham was referring to a 1936 confrontation sparked by British fascist leader Oswald Mosley’s decision to march through the then-heavily Jewish East End of London. Mosley’s pro-Nazi followers were met at Cable Street by Jews, communists and anarchists, and a pitched battle ensued.
The English Defense League rejects the fascist label, arguing that it only opposes militant Islam. On its website, the group claims that the violence at its rallies has been provoked by Muslims and far-left groups.