The roots of the dreadful hours that Paris and the French people experienced between Wednesday lunchtime and Friday afternoon last week can be seen in two of the greatest evils of our time – murderous Islamic terrorism and anti-Semitism. The two often go hand in hand, declared Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag.
Angela Merkel pledged France the solidarity of Germany. In these difficult times, she said France and Germany stand together. "We stand together in the full awareness that there can be no security in Germany, if there is no security in France," said the Chancellor.
Terrorism did not start on 11 September 2001 and it will not vanish overnight, said Angela Merkel. The Chancellor reminded her audience of the many attacks that have been perpetrated around the world, recently but also in the more distant past. "There has never been a time without terrorism. Terrorism has always existed," she stressed.
She gave the examples of the atrocities committed in the Nazis concentration camps, the series of NSU murders, the Islamists attack in the Jewish Museum in Brussels, the bloody outrages perpetrated by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the beheading of kidnapped journalists in Syria and Iraq.
Angela Merkel underscored the importance of tolerance and the freedom of the press. A free press is "one of the greatest treasures of our society". Where freedom of the press exists only on paper, though, it is not worth much, she said. Far too many countries have no genuinely free press. This presupposes tolerance. Tolerance is a virtue that must not be confused with the failure to take a stance. Freedom of religion and tolerance do not mean that the Sharia can take precedence over the German Basic Law or constitution.
"Je suis Charlie" and the pencils are symbolic of the response and protest around the world. This was an attack on the freedom of the press. Article 5 of Germany’s Basic Law or constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression, is one of the most important fundamental rights in her view, said the Chancellor.
At the same time the Chancellor rejected any generalised suspicion of all Muslims, and assured the four million Muslims living in Germany of her protection. "There must be no exclusion or marginalisation of Muslims in Germany, and no general suspicion," said Angela Merkel. The huge majority of Muslims in Germany are law-abiding citizens who respect the country’s constitution. In Germany we have a guarantee that the Islamic faith can be freely practised within the framework of our constitution and all other laws of our country.
Angela Merkel stressed that Jewish life is part of Germany. "It is our duty as a state and as individuals to fight anti-Semitism." Like Jewish life, Islam is now also part of Germany, declared the Chancellor, firmly supporting the statements made by former Federal President Christian Wulff in 2010. There can be no place in Germany for discrimination and exclusion. Any attacks on mosques will be vigorous prosecuted by the criminal investigation forces. At the same time Angela Merkel reasserted that the German government will fight every form of Islamist violence.
Every terrorist makes a personal decision, said Angela Merkel. The presumptuousness of claiming to act on behalf of God is blasphemy in her opinion, she declared. In this context she called on Islamic religious leaders to draw a clear line between Islam and Islamist terrorism. The question as to why murderers cite Islam as the reason for their actions is a crucial one. The question as to why murders who invoke Islam as the reason for their action allegedly have nothing to do with Islam must be answered. "These are legitimate questions. I believe it is important for these questions to be answered by Islam’s religious authorities. And I believe they must be answered urgently," said Angela Merkel.
Angela Merkel reaffirmed that Germany will fight Islamist violence absolutely rigorously with the full force of the law. She reminded her audience of the Cabinet decision to withdraw the passports of Islamist combatants from Germany and replace these with ID documents that do not entitle the bearer to leave Germany. Agreement are still needed at European level to improve anti-terrorism and security measures. Germany will continue to be part of the efforts to fight the terrorist IS militia.
The Chancellor also spoke out in favour of EU-wide regulations on data retention. "In view of the conviction of the ministers of the interior at federal state and national level across party lines in Germany that we need minimum data retention time limits, we should urge that the revised EU guidelines announced by the European Commission be presented swiftly so that they can subsequently be translated into German law." The European Court of Justice and the Federal Constitutional Court have already laid out the limits within which a regulation is permissible, she said.
The rule-of-law instruments that can be deployed in the fight against extremist terrorism include the implementation of the UN resolution on supressing the financing of terrorism, sharing air passenger data and the introduction of a replacement ID document. "This will prevent German citizens leaving the country to travel to terrorist camps," said Angela Merkel. She pointed to the risk posed by returning Jihadists. "Following the brutalization they experience they represent the greatest potential threat."
The Chancellor also stressed the importance of the work of the German intelligence services. It is absolutely indispensable that the services share information across national borders.
"We must deprive all forms of intolerance of their breeding ground," the Chancellor continued. This is why the German government is supporting projects and programmes to foster tolerance and promote an understanding of democracy. In the long term democracy must be accepted as the principle by which we all live, said the Chancellor.
We can best prevent the emergence of images of other groups as alien and enemy through education and by encouraging groups to come together and get to know one another, stressed Angela Merkel. At school, in sports clubs and at work we can learn how to broker and achieve compromises. Helping others and accepting responsibility for others is an important foundation of democracy. Angela Merkel thanked the "quiet heroes in our society" who give freely of their time and effort to help others in a wide variety of ways.
"That is our counter-model to the world of terrorism," said Angela Merkel pointing to democratic life in Germany. "And it is stronger than terrorism."