Backlash after Steinmeier calls on German Arabs to 'distance themselves from Hamas'

Backlash after Steinmeier calls on German Arabs to 'distance themselves from Hamas'
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has been criticised for telling German Palestinians and Arabs to 'distance themselves from Hamas' amid a rise in Islamophobic incidents in the country.
2 min read
09 November, 2023
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was criticised for not treating Muslims as 'equal citizens' [Photo by ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images]

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has faced backlash and accusations of racism after he called on Germans of Palestinian and Arab origin to distance themselves from Hamas and antisemitism.

Speaking to Jewish and Muslim leaders at his residence in Berlin on Wednesday, President Steinmeier said that those from the Arab and Palestinian community in Germany had a constitutional right to "have the space to share your pain and despair at the civilian casualties in Gaza".

However, he also said that "calls for the destruction of the state of Israel are not part of this guarantee", adding that those in the community should "speak for yourselves and make a clear stand against terror".

His comments faced backlash, with Jannis J Grimm, an academic at the Free University of Berlin, stating on X that "when European Muslims are expected to take a stance against terrorism, they are not being treated as equal citizens of Europe's polities, but as potentially extremist foreign bodies."

Hugh Lovatt, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations also said on X that "Jews should never be made to account for Israel's actions. So why should Germany ask its Muslim citizens to account for Hamas's?"

Steinmeier's remarks come amid a rise in Islamophobic and antisemitic incidents in Germany following the assault by Hamas on southern Israel on 7 October, which reportedly killed over 1,200 -  including over 350 soldiers.

Israel's indiscriminate revenge bombardment of the Gaza Strip has so far killed over 10,812 Palestinians - mostly children, women and elderly.

According to the Berlin-based Alliance Against Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate, from the 7 to 31 October, there were 53 anti-Muslim incidents in Germany including attacks on mosques.


German police have been accused by Palestinian activists of clamping down on peace protests for Gaza,  deploying riot police and water cannons and refusing to grant permission for protests.

Following the October 7 attacks, Germany announced a "complete ban" on activities that may be deemed as supporting Hamas and has also dissolved the pro-Palestinian Samidoun group.

A report by the German Centre for Integration and Migration Research said that nearly 40 percent of Muslim men in Germany had suffered racism and discrimination when dealing with police and authorities.