CAIRO - Plans by a far-right party to screen a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) have sparked a heightened debate in Germany about banning the movie to avoid angering the Muslim minority in the country.
I demand more respect for people's religious sentiments, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich was quoted as saying by Deutche Welle on Wednesday, September 19.
"We as Christians have had to put up with a lot in recent years, protected under the label expression, press and artistic freedom.
A far-right group known as Pro-Deutschland (Pro-Germany) has announced plan to screen a US-made film insulting the Prophet.
Friedrich warned that screening of the anti-prophet movie would be a political action that would only serve to pour oil on the fire.
He said banning the film would not constitute an attack on the freedom of expression.
"In this case, I consider it appropriate to consider all legal possibilities linked to the right to hold public demonstrations ... to see how we can act against it," Friedrich told Phoenix rolling news channel.
Produced by an American-Israeli real estate developer, the film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The film triggered protests in several countries around the world, which left at least 14 people dead, including the US ambassador in Libya.
Angry with the insulting material, Sudanese protestors stormed and set ablaze the German embassy in Khartoum last week.
The offensive movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.
Last week, the German government banned the US pastor from entering Germany, after Pro-Deutschland sought to invite him.
Ban or Not?
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle condemned the film as an anti-Islamic hate video.
"Those perpetrating the violence in Arab countries represent their people as little as these far-right activists represent Germany, he said, Reuters reported.
He said freedom of expression should not go beyond the point of insulting people.
"We shouldn't fall for those who sow the seeds of confrontation and conflict through violence, extremism, intolerance and fundamentalism.
The top diplomat said that German authorities would weigh whether to ban any screening of the anti-prophet movie.
But the ban invited opposition from some Germans, including Muslims.
"The more this content is made taboo, the more damage is done," Lamya Kaddor, the head of the Liberal Muslim Association, told the left-leaning daily Tageszeitung.
German newspapers were also critical of plans to ban the anti-prophet film.
"Should the anti-Islam video that has caused outrage across half the world be banned here in Germany? The answer must be: No," said mass-circulation daily Bild.
The Financial Times Deutschland said that banning the film would be a "victory for the extremists" while the Sueddeutsche Zeitung said it would allow Pro Deutschland to set themselves up as "martyrs for freedom of speech".
Germany has between 3.8 and 4.3 million Muslims, making up some 5 percent of the total 82 million population, according to government-commissioned studies.
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."