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Merkel, top ministers to join Muslim march for 'tolerance'

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel and most of her cabinet will join a rally for an “open and tolerant Germany” called by Muslim leaders Tuesday in Berlin after the jihadist attacks in France, a spokesman said.

Merkel will take part in the event at the Brandenburg Gate in the heart of the capital, along with Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and other top officials, government spokesman Georg Streiter told reporters Monday.

Merkel joined French President Francois Hollande and several other world leaders at a huge Paris solidarity rally Sunday in the wake of the massacre of 17 people by Islamist gunmen in the city last week.

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany, one of a handful of groups representing the interests of the country’s four-million-strong community, called the vigil under the banner “Let’s be there for each other. Terror: not in our names!”.

The event, co-sponsored by the Turkish Community of Berlin, is scheduled to kick off at 1700 GMT.

“We Muslims in Germany condemn the despicable terror attacks in France in the strongest terms,” the groups said in an invitation Saturday.

“There is no justification in Islam for such acts.”

The rally is also intended to send a strong message of unity against a new anti-Islamic group whose weekly marches in the eastern city of Dresden have grown in size since their start in October.

“Those who use racist and Islamophobic slogans strengthen the rabble-rousers, inciters of hatred and terrorists,” it said.

Leaders of the so-called “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” (PEGIDA) have asked participants at Monday’s march to wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence for “the victims of terrorism in Paris”.

The call drew accusations that the group was trying to exploit the bloodshed in Paris to whip up hatred against Muslims.

Merkel has urged Germans to turn their backs on the PEGIDA rallies. – AFP

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