Merkel says refugees didn't bring Islamist terrorism to Germany

By REUTERS
August 18, 2016 13:36

More than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere arrived in Germany last year.

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Sryian Refugees

Sryian Refugees in Berlin. (photo credit:URIEL HEILMAN/ JTA)

NEUSTRELITZ, Germany - Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday refugees had not brought terrorism to Germany, adding that Islam belonged in the country as long as it was practiced in a way that respected the constitution.

More than a million people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere arrived in Germany last year. The mood towards them has soured after a spate of attacks on civilians last month, including three carried out by migrants.

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Two of those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State militant group.

"The phenomenon of Islamist terrorism, of IS, is not a phenomenon that came to us with the refugees," Merkel said at an election campaign event for her Christian Democrats in the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ahead of a regional vote on Sept. 4.

Merkel said many people had traveled from Germany to Syria for training with Islamist militants. In June Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said a total of more than 800 were believed to have gone to Syria and Iraq.

"This group has worried us for several years," she said at the event in Neustrelitz, a town 100 km (60 miles) north of Berlin.

Merkel's popularity has suffered in the wake of the attacks and 52 percent of Germans think her migrant policy is bad, a poll published last week showed.

The influx of migrants, many of whom are Muslim, has boosted support for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is expected to perform well in elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Berlin.

"We have said clearly that an Islam that works and lives on the basis of the constitution ... belongs to Germany," Merkel said.

She added that a type of Islam that did not stick to the constitution or accept equal rights for women had no place in the country.

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