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Germany's angst about Islamists goes mainstream
by Kirsten Grieshaber
The 200 robed and bearded men gathered at dusk on the market square, rolled out their prayer rugs and intoned Allah's praises as dismayed townspeople looked on.
It was Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and the group that calls itself "Invitation to Paradise" was mounting a defiant response to weeks of public protests against construction of a religious school to teach its austere, militant interpretation of Islam.
In Germany, where the racial crimes of the Nazis have bred extreme sensitivity toward the rights of minorities, such confrontations would until recently have been limited to the far-right margins. The weekly rallies in this city of 250,000 near the Dutch border these days look decidedly mainstream.
It's part of a trend seen across Europe: Spooked by what many see as a terrorism threat, ordinary people are becoming increasingly vocal in opposing radical Muslims. They are ditching traditions of tolerance and saying no to cultures that do not share their democratic values. Some lament the decline of multiculturalism — "Utterly failed," in the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel — while others say Europe is defending its way of life against those who would destroy it.
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