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Amid growing anti-Islam protests, German Interior Minister admits problems reaching ‘some parts of our society’

January 5th, 2015
05:13 PM ET

By Madalena Araujo, CNN

Germany’s Interior Minister admitted some difficulty in reaching some parts of society, but pledged to fight against a new type of anti-Islam movement that is sweeping across the country.

“We and others and the media we have problems to reach some parts of our society and I think this is the case in other democracies as well,” Thomas de Maizière told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

Germany has been rocked by a wave of anti-Muslim demonstrations and concerns about a resurgence of right-wing nationalism, with the protest group “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West” (PEGIDA) gathering tens of thousands of supporters in recent months.

The Minister pointed out that “it’s very interesting that the organizations of PEGIDA they know exactly where is the red line which they should not cross, which makes me more sceptical, but they know where the taboos are in Germany though I don’t see a renewal of the NPD or other parties."

"It’s less than in other European countries and we are very well aware of it and we will fight against every tendency.”

The rising number of people taking to the streets to campaign against what they see as the “Islamization” of Europe has prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to condemn the fast-growing movement in her New Year’s address.

Thomas de Maizière said he agreed with the Chancellor’s statement, but conceded that “a lot of those who are there on the streets, they have critical questions, they ask is there an end of asylum seekers, how dangerous is the Islam for our society? What about the fight against I.S. – can this be successful?”

“And these critical questions has to be faced, has to be answered but not as an answer on PEGIDA, but because us on our own, we want to answer these questions.”

According to a Der Spiegel poll, 34% of Germans say the country is becoming “increasingly Islamicized.”

German’s Interior Minister acknowledged he was “worried about this tendency” but told Amanpour “we shouldn’t overestimate that this is so far a regional phenomenon although it [is] taking place in my hometown.”

“All the other efforts in other cities to have similar sort of demonstrations failed. The organizations are very far-right.”

Amanpour asked the minister why PEGIDA’s leader Lutz Bachmann, whose own criminal record includes burglary, drunk driving and drug dealing, why he’s allowed to head a movement in the country.

“It’s a good question, I don’t know. His deputy is running a security company, so they can organize great events, they are the rightest extreme people among these organizations. So they are very well organized.”

“But this guy he is not the intellectual head of this movement, there must be someone else.”

Thomas de Maizière explained that “anybody who is free can organize a demonstration this is part of our free society.”

“But the question is why do so many follow him? This is the more interesting question. He’s very clever in not crossing a red line, criminal sort of speeches, so this is the reason why I think he’s not the only one.”

According to the UNHCR Germany now receives most of the refugees among industrialized countries. Many of them motivated by economic woes but also the war in Syria and other countries.

“It's a great challenge for all of us. We have to work with the transit countries. We have to fight against these criminals. You have seen these great ships entered by criminal organizations and they put refugees on these ships, 700, something like that. They earn perhaps $5 million per ship.”

“We've heard about five to six billion dollars in the last year benefits for these criminal organizations. We have to fight against them. Otherwise, we will not - we will not win this situation. We have to get the people ready to welcome real refugees and we have to fight against these criminal organizations.”

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