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German lawmakers turkish group slam anti islam rally

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German politicians and a Turkish group appealed for tolerance on Wednesday and condemned an anti-Islamic congress, planned by a nationalist group in the western city of Cologne.

The Pro-Cologne group fiercely opposes a decision by the city of Cologne to allow the construction of a new mosque which will include a dome and minarets.

"It is high time that people in Germany raise their voices to support dialogue and peaceful coexistence and take a stand against injustice, racism and extremism," Rafet Ozturk, of the DITIB Turkish-Islamic Union in a statement.

Leftist groups are planning counter-protests on Saturday and the Christian-Muslim Peace Initiative said it would put up 500 placards around Cologne with the slogan "dialogue and tolerance instead of aggression and fear!".

"The36in Cologne linked to the planned mosque — of which right-wing populists’ activities are unfortunately a part — will be watched across Germany and Europe," said Ruprecht Polenz, head of parliament’s foreign policy committee and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The congress has also sparked anger in Islamic countries.

Earlier this month, Iran called on the French presidency of the European Union to stop the congress and summoned the French charge d’affaires in Tehran to the Foreign Ministry’s human rights department, according to the IRNA agency.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, Austrian far-right Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache and members of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party are due at the congress on Saturday, says Pro-Cologne’s website. Media have reported between 1,000 and 1,500 people are expected to join the Pro-Cologne march on Saturday.

About 3.2 million Muslims live in Germany, more than half of whom are of Turkish origin.