Ramadan 2020: Germany’s president pledges to fight Islamophobia

Berlin church welcomes Muslims unable to fit into mosque for Friday prayers due to social-distancing rules

epa08409561 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks after the wreath laying ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two, at the Neue Wache Memorial in Berlin, Germany, 08 May 2020. Countries in Europe are commemorating the Victory in Europe Day, known as VE Day that celebrates Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender during World World II on 08 May 1945.  EPA/FILIP SINGER / POOL

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier pledged to renew efforts to tackle anti-Muslim hatred in his country in an end of Ramadan message on Friday.

As the holy month of fasting approached its end, Mr Steinmeier said protecting Muslims was not only the duty of the state but of every individual.

Germany was shaken by a devastating attack in February that left nine people dead, most of whom were Muslims, in the city of Hanau.

Federal prosecutors said a 24-page manifesto written by the shooter pointed to “deeply racist views”.

The president said he had been deeply affected by the crime, which he described as an attack on peaceful coexistence and the values of tolerance, diversity and freedom of worship shared by all Germans.

Muslims pray inside the evangelical church of St. Martha's parish, during their Friday prayers, as the community mosque can't fit everybody in due to social distancing rules, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Berlin, Germany, May 22, 2020.   REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

"Hatred and exclusion, violent attacks targeting Muslims, attacks on mosques - we cannot tolerate this, we cannot allow this," Mr Steinmeier wrote.

Earlier in the day, a church in Berlin opened its doors to Muslims who were unable to fit into their mosque for Friday prayers because of social-distancing measures designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The Dar Assalam mosque in the Neukölln district of the German capital normally welcomes hundreds of Muslims to its Friday services. But it can currently only accommodate 50 people at a time under coronavirus restrictions.

The nearby Martha Lutheran church stepped in to help, hosting Muslim prayers in Arabic and German.

"It is a great sign and it brings joy in Ramadan and joy amid this crisis," said Mohamed Taha Sabry, the mosque's imam, who led his congregation in prayer watched over by a stained-glass window depicting the Virgin Mary.

"This pandemic has made us a community. Crises bring people get together."

The church's pastor, Monika Matthias, said she had felt moved by the Muslim call to prayer.

"I took part in the prayer," she said. "I gave a speech in German. And during prayer, I could only say yes, yes, yes, because we have the same concerns and we want to learn from you. And it is beautiful to feel that way about each other."

Places of worship reopened in Germany on May 4 after being shut for weeks under a coronavirus lockdown, but worshippers must maintain a minimum distance from one another of 1.5 metres.