CAIRO - The growing numbers of Muslims in Germany are sharpening stereotypes and attributes against the minority and escalating fears of Islam, a problem embedded in the social structure of the society.
"For decades, woman fought for equal rights, and we have attained something. And now, women are choosing to wear headscarves," a university-educated woman from Cologne told Deutsch Welle.I don't want that and it scares me.
The opinion of the Cologne woman is shared by many Germans who see the spread of Islam as a threat to their society.
Those feelings have been sharpened by a recent debate about the establishment of a central mosque in Cologne, which will be one of Europe's largest.
Adding to the fears are the campaigns launched by right-wing groups, led by parties such as "Pro NRW" and "Pro Deutschland.
Declaring their opposition to the mosque, the campaigns had a clear message between Islam is dangerous and there is no place for Muslims in Germany.
Those sentiments appeared clearly in a new survey, carried out by the University of Bielefeld over the past ten years about different aspects of bigotry in the European country.
The survey showed that the fear of Islam is relatively widespread in Germany.
It found that only 19 percent of Germans believe that Islam is compatible with German culture.
"That is the lowest (figure) that we found in Europe," social psychologist Andreas Zick, who led and evaluated the study, said.
The survey also showed that 46 percent of Germans are afraid of the infiltration by foreigners, and around 30 percent had specific fears, for example, terrorist attacks.
It also revealed that Islamophobia has become culturally acceptable in the country and that the society is shifting its attention from xenophobia to religious bias against Muslims,
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.
Analysts see parallels between xenophobia in the early 1990s and Islamophobia today in that both are based on social structures.
"A lot of what is seen as the problems of living with different ethnic or religious groups isn't actively discussed in the open," Detlef Pollack, a religion sociologist at the University of MÃ¼nster, said.
Pollack noted that Islamophobia was basically based on a very vague fear of Islam.
He related this fear to the structure of German society, which has a tendency not to address problems directly and therefore developing fears of foreigners and Muslims in different ages.
But if fears are not clearly articulated, then they cannot be dealt with, he said.
"And then someone is surprised that there is a high degree of prejudice, of fear, the fear of being threatened," Pollack noted.
Fear of Islam in Germany is not new.
An earlier study in 2010 by the University of Munster found that 66 percent of western Germans and 74 percent of eastern Germans had a negative attitude towards Muslims.
A more recent study from the Allensbach Institute suggested that this had not changed over the past two years.
Asking Germans about Islam, only 22 percent said they agreed with Germany's former president Christian Wulff's statement that Islam, like Christianity, was part of Germany.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."