BERLIN – German President Joachim Gauck joined Muslims on an interfaith iftar last week in Berlin, sending an out loud message against demonizing Muslims.
“Promoting encounters is particularly important at a time when mutual mistrust is spreading,” Gauck said, according to an advance text of his speech cited by Reuters on Monday, June 14.
The former Lutheran pastor from East Germany said many Germans were anxious after recent attacks in Paris and Brussels.
“And for some, the fear of terrorism has become a fear of Muslims,” Gauck said, warning against a polarization of society and urged Germans to seek regular encounters with Muslims in their neighborhoods.
Joining iftar in Moabit, a poor district of Berlin with a large migrant population, Gauck became the first German President to attend such an event during Ramadan.
“All who celebrate the iftar together today can attest: living together is possible.
“Simply being together can sometimes even replace long discussions – especially if we let ourselves be guided by the golden rule that is common to all major religions and simply says ‘Treat others as you want them to treat you’.”
Muslims in Germany and most Muslim countries started fasting on Monday, June 6, on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.
Muslims dedicate their time during the holy month to be closer to Allah through prayers, self-restraint and good deeds.
Germany has Europe’s second-biggest Muslim population after France, and Islam comes third in Germany after Protestant and Catholic Christianity.
It has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some five percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
Germany took in 1.1 million refugees last year, most of them Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans who fled wars and conflicts. The numbers have put a strain on local authorities and triggered anti-refugee sentiments.