Racism is on the rise in Germany, an expert study warned Wednesday, as a fierce debate about immigration, especially of Muslims, continues to rage in the country.
The study, by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, showed that more than one third (34.3 percent) of those surveyed believed Germany's 16 million immigrants or people with foreign origins came to the country for the social benefits.
Around the same number (35.6 percent) think Germany is being "over-run by foreigners" and more than one in 10 called for a "Fuehrer" to run the country "with a strong hand."
Thirty-two percent of people said they agreed with the statement: "Foreigners should be sent home when jobs are scarce."
"In 2010, there has been a significant increase in anti-democratic and racist attitudes. We are experiencing a dramatic turning point," said the study's authors, Elmar Braehler and Oliver Decker.
Far-right attitudes are found not only at the extremes of German society, but "to a worrying degree at the centre of society," the report noted.
More than half (58.4 percent) of the 2,411 people polled thought the around four million Muslims in Germany should have their religious practices "significantly curbed."
The integration of Muslims has been a hot button issue since August when a member of the central bank sparked outrage by saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim immigrants.
The banker, Thilo Sarrazin, has since resigned but his book on the subject -- "Germany Does Itself In" -- has flown off the shelves, and polls showed considerable sympathy for some of his views.
President Christian Wulff used his speech to mark the 20th anniversary of German reunification to address the issue, saying that "Islam is part of Germany" but his comments attracted widespread criticism.
The Friedrich Ebert Foundation has close links to the centre-left Social Democrats.
© 2010 AFP
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