CAIRO - Plans by a far-right group in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia to put anti-Islam caricatures depicting Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) outside mosques to draw voters are worrying German politicians who accused it of carrying out a xenophobic hate campaign against German Muslims.
"Pro NRW is committing spiritual arson," Interior Minister in state Ralf JÃ¤ger told Die Welt on Sunday, April 29.
"The party is consciously taking into account that Muslims will feel provoked and upset.
Controversy started when Pro-NRW, (short for the German state North Rhine-Westphalia), said it plans to run a Muhammad cartoon contest', referring to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
A cash prize was also designed for the "best" anti-Islamic caricature, named after Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who was responsible for the 2005 cartoons which provoked the anger of the Muslim world.
"Pro NRW", which has been categorized as an extremist right-wing group by the domestic intelligence agency, also intends to send activists to 25 mosques throughout the state in the run-up to the election on May 13, staging protests in Cologne, Bonn, DÃ¼sseldorf, Aachen, Wuppertal and Solingen.
Pro NRW showed cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday at demonstrations in the cities of Essen and Gelsenkirchen.
Some 100 protestors attended the demonstrations, and they were outnumbered by hundreds of counter-demonstrators, reports said.
"The so-called cartoon contest is deliberately aimed at provoking Muslims," JÃ¤ger said.
Trying to prevent protests, the interior minister condemned the campaign, expressing support for planned counter-demonstrations.
The authorities will exhaust all legal avenues to prevent a xenophobic hate campaign," JÃ¤ger told Die Welt.
"All democrats agree xenophobic incitement has no place here," he added.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich warned of a possible confrontation between Muslims and right-wing extremists, saying it could have unforeseeable consequences for public safety.
He told lawmakers that this deliberate provocation by Pro NRW would inflame tensions and lead to violent clashes.
He added that German embassies and companies operating abroad might also be affected, similar to the protests in Muslim countries following the publication in 2005 of Danish cartoons.
Germany is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
Germany's daily Der Spiegel had warned last August that the country is becoming intolerant towards its Muslim minority.
According to a 2010 nationwide poll by the research institute Infratest-dimap, more than one third of the respondents would prefer "a Germany without Islam."