German minister urges anti-Islamic group to call off march

AFP , Sunday 11 Jan 2015

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas urged an anti-Islamic movement to call off a planned march on Monday, saying it had no right to "exploit" the killings by jihadists in Paris.

Maas, the most outspoken German cabinet member against the so-called "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident" (PEGIDA), told the daily Bild in its issue to be published Monday that he found the right-wing populist group "hypocritical".

"If the organisers had a shred of decency they would simply cancel these demonstrations," he was quoted as saying.

"The victims (of the Paris attacks) do not deserve to be abused by rabble-rousers like these."

The minister's comments came after the firebombing of a tabloid in northern Hamburg that had reprinted cartoons by French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo lampooning the Prophet Mohammed.

Police said they were investigating whether there was a link between the arson attack and the massacre at the paper in Paris on Wednesday that left 12 people dead.

PEGIDA has held weekly marches since October in the eastern city of Dresden and attracted a record 18,000 people at its last rally last Monday.

For its rally on Monday, it has asked participants to wear black armbands and observe a minute's silence for "the victims of terrorism in Paris".

Maas blasted this call.

"How hypocritical can you be?" he asked.

He noted that most of the 17 victims in France at the hands of Islamic extremists this week had worked at Charlie Hebdo, while PEGIDA frequently attacks the "lying press" in its slogans.

"It is simply disgusting how the people behind these protests are trying to exploit the despicable crimes in Paris," said Maas, who is from the Social Democrats, partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government.

On Saturday about 35,000 people, organisers said, took to the streets in Dresden against the anti-Islam group's marches.

Several German Muslim groups have called a silent march in Berlin on Monday to denounce violence and call for social cohesion.

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