German President Joachim Gauck told the country's Muslim community Tuesday that "we are all Germany" at a rally to condemn the Paris jihadist attacks and take a stand against rising Islamophobia.
About 10,000 citizens, religious leaders and politicians, among them Chancellor Angela Merkel, joined the event, which started with a wreath-laying ceremony at the French embassy and an imam reciting Koranic verses condemning the taking of life, reported AFP.
Gauck used his speech to send a message of reassurance to Germany's four-million-strong Muslim community, a day after a record 25,000 people joined a protest march by a populist anti-Islamic movement.
"We are all Germany," he said.
"We, democrats with our different political, cultural and religious backgrounds; we, who respect and need each other; we, who want to live life... in unity, justice and freedom," Gauck said in his speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
"The vast majority of Muslims feel they belong to our open society... Germany has become more diverse through immigration -- religiously, culturally and mentally," he stressed.
"Our answer to the fundamentalism of the Islamist perpetrators of violence is democracy, respect for the law, respect for each other, respect for human dignity. This is our way of life!"
People at the rally applauded his message of inter-faith unity that came a day after the 12th rally by Germany's new movement the "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident", or PEGIDA, which has spawned smaller clone groups across Germany and as far as Norway.
Merkel -- who this week stressed that "Islam is part of Germany" -- said earlier Tuesday that "hatred, racism and extremism have no place in this country... We are a country based on democracy, tolerance and openness to the world."
PEGIDA holds weekly anti-Islam rallies in the eastern city of Dresden. The group attracted more than 17,000 people to a December 22 rally.
Tuesday's vigil and rally was organized by the Central Council of Muslims under the banner "Let's be there for each other. Terror: not in our name!"
"Today we all want to express our solidarity with the French people," its chairman Aiman Mazyek said in his opening address. "The terrorists did not win and terrorists won't win in future.
"Today we say, along with the French people and many people around the world: 'Je suis Charlie'," he added, employing the international message of solidarity with the artists killed at the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Abraham Lehrer, said in his speech that in the French attacks, cartoonists were murdered because they stood up for free expression, police because they sought to protect them, and Jews simply "because they were Jews".
Lehrer said it would be wrong "to suspect all Muslims or even to disparage their religion. We completely condemn reprisals such as attacks on mosques."
But he said it was up to Muslims to counter the fear and terror spread by "radicalized, fanatical Islam" in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Merkel, who is often known to avoid controversial issues, has weighed in strongly on the PEGIDA issue, condemning its leaders for having "hatred in the hearts".
A recent poll found that one German in eight would join an anti-Muslim march if the PEGIDA movement organized one in their home towns