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Berlin's Muslim community sends message of peace and solidarity after Christmas market attack

'We’re here tonight to show our face against terrorism,' says Muhammad Asif Sadiq

Lizzie Dearden,Katie Forster
Wednesday 21 December 2016 15:23 GMT
Berlin's Muslim community sends message of peace and solidarity after Christmas market attack

Muslims handing out t-shirts reading “love for all, hate for none” at a vigil in Berlin have said they will not allow the city to become more divided following Monday’s attack on a Christmas market.

Police are reportedly hunting a Tunisian man after a lorry ploughed into the market, killing 12 people and injuring dozens more.

Asylum documents naming the suspect were found under the driver’s seat of the vehicle, according to German media.

“We’re here tonight to show our face against terrorism,” Muhammad Asif Sadiq told The Independent during a live Facebook broadcast at last night’s vigil.

“Muslims who live here fight for peace, fight for loyalty and they love their country. We are here as citizens of Berlin and we love living here.”

Mr Sadiq attended the vigil with the group of Ahmadiyya Muslims wearing and giving out the t-shirts, some which also said “freedom for all” and “loyalty for all”.

“We are part of this society, we live here, and we want to live in peace, we want to live in harmony, and we believe this society is open enough to support the same values as we do,” he said.

People take part in a vigil in Berlin, Germany after the truck attack at the Christmas market (Lizzie Dearden)

Mr Sadiq, who is of Pakistani origin, said people had “started looking at foreigners differently” over recent years in Germany but was confident that Berlin would rise above growing anti-migrant sentiment.

“Changing ourselves is not the answer – we have to change the terrorists to we are strong,” he said, adding a message for the attacker: “If he does not like the way people live here, just leave the country.”

The vigil took place on Tuesday evening (Lizzie Dearden)

Berliners, tourists, Muslims and Jews could all be seen among the crowds braving the freezing cold in a show of defiance against the terror wreaked less than 24 hours before.

Angela Merkel joined hundreds of mourners at a memorial service at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, which towers over the market.

Hundreds more were unable to enter the packed service, gathering inside the deserted Christmas market instead and holding makeshift vigils under the watch of heavily armed police in Breitscheidplatz.

Many openly wept as they were hugged by friends and loved ones, laying down candles and flowers or simply standing in silence to listen to the prayers and music broadcast from inside the church.

Zeynep Cetinkaya, a German woman of Turkish heritage, described the panicked search to check on her friends and family as news of the attack spread, with several victims still unidentified.

“Just one day after what happened, people are not hiding at home, they are here in the same place to show their strength,” she said.

One of her friends, Sami Atris, said he was among several members of his mosque attending the vigil, adding: “We are Muslim people but we are also German people and this was an attack on us Germans. We are here to show we won’t let anyone divide us and we will stand here, together in love and peace.”

Yasin Uzuner, who was putting down candles with his wife and two young children in the deserted Christmas market, said the attack struck Berlin particularly hard by targeting the festive period.

But said he still felt safe in the German capital. “We will come back here,” he added, calling demands for Germany to shut its borders “rubbish”.

Angelina Ferrera and her mother were standing with a group of people holding candles opposite the church as hymns rang out.

The 30-year-old vowed that Berlin would not be “polarised” by the attack, adding: “It’s important to be here with our friends, with our community. This person tried to divide us and they will not succeed.”

Her mother, Karin Muolo, recalled life under the Communist DDR and said Berlin would not lose its spirit of freedom.

Asked whether political opponents were right to blame Ms Merkel for terror attacks because of her refugee policy, she called the idea “totally false”.

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