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Europe, Islam's New Front Line: Germany

The death of a Dutch filmmaker, at the hands of a suspected Muslim extremist, has Germans anxious that religious unrest will spread to their own country. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli continues a five-part series on Europe as the emerging battlefield in the struggle to define Muslim identity.

Unease about Islamic radicalism was sparked by a German television broadcast in which an imam at a Berlin mosque was secretly filmed calling Germans "unbelievers" who "can only burn in hell." A spokesman for the mosque later asked for the public's forgiveness and said Imam Yakub Tasci spoke in error.

Muslims make up about 4 percent of the German population, but their influence on German society is growing. For example, a German Muslim group won a court battle to impose its own Islamic teaching in Berlin's public schools.

Moderate Muslims are dismayed by the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Turkish-born Osman Gundojdu, who owns a construction company, says he's furious at fundamentalist radicals who are "abusing Islam... They're preaching against integration. It's up to us to criticize them. We have to respect the society we're living in."

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Corrected: March 14, 2006 at 2:02 PM PST
As originally broadcast, our report mistakenly cited Germany's Muslim community as the largest in Europe. We should have said it is one of the largest.
Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.