CAIRO - The Interior Minister of Germany's western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) has blamed a far-right group that displayed lampooning cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessing be upon him) outside mosques for a recent cycle of violence in the European country.
The actions of the extremist anti-Islam group, "Pro NRW", in Bonn on Saturday had been a "deliberate provocation" that had triggered reprisals by Salafists, Ralf Jager, the NRW Interior Minister, was quoted as saying by Deutsche Welle on Monday, May 7.
Gathering outside the Saudi Fahd Academy in Bonn's suburb of Mehlem, "Pro-NRW" supporters showed caricatures depicting a man said to be the prophet.
Hundreds of Salafi Muslims gathered in response to protest the rightist rally, which developed into clashes that left 29 policemen injured.
More than 100 Salafist protesters were briefly arrested.
"This was an explosion of violence as we haven't witnessed in a long time," said Bonn's police chief, Ursula Brohl-Sowa.
Tension started days before the rally, when Pro-NRW announced plans to run a Muhammad cartoon contest', referring to the prophet.
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 anger in the Muslim world.
Saturday's rally by the Pro-NRW, which has been categorized as an extremist right-wing group by the domestic intelligence agency, was among several rallies planned at 25 mosques throughout the state in the run-up to the election on May 13.
Other protests were planned in Cologne, Bonn, DÃ¼sseldorf, Aachen, Wuppertal and Solingen.
However, the right-wing group insisted that provocation is a cornerstone of its campaign against Muslims.
"It is of course part of the campaign," Pro-NRW spokesman Markus Wiener told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday.
"We are a party that is critical of Islam and we wanted to show our standpoint."
Last week, the NRW interior minister accused Pro-NRW of committing spiritual arson on German Muslims who would feel provoked and upset by the far-right protest.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich also warned of a possible confrontation between Muslims and right-wing extremists, saying it could have unforeseeable consequences for public safety.
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."