As one writer said in a German news outlet, (Deutsche Welle), the problem is that "we are not having a proper debate over the concerns that many people have." Instead, we have media reports that fan the flames of conflict, and politicians who only want to avoid the issue.
In October, just a few hundred people were marching. By Christmas, they numbered 17,500.
Bernd Lucke, leader of the Alternative for Germany Party and professor of macroeconomics at Hamburg University says, "Many people in Germany have legitimate concerns about the spread of radical Islamic ideology, which promotes violence against non-Muslims, robs women and girls of their natural rights, and seeks to require the application of Sharia law.... Because the rule of law, tolerance and freedom of religion are fundamental Western values, the PEGIDA movement must leave no doubt that it is precisely these values that it seeks to defend."
"Despite efforts by German politicians and the media to portray PEGIDA as neo-Nazi, the group has taken great pains to distance itself from Germany's extreme right," says Soeren Kern in a report in a Gatestone report. "The group says that it is 'apolitical' and that its main objective is to preserve what is left of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture and values." Half the people who identify as left-wing Social Democrats agree with the aims of PEGIDA.
The following are excerpts from Soeren Kern's report (read the whole report here):
Islamization" of their country.
The protests are part of a burgeoning grassroots movement made up of ordinary citizens who are calling for an end to runaway immigration and the spread of Islamic Sharia law in Germany.
There is a mounting public backlash over what many perceive as the government's indifference to the growing influence of Islam in German society. This backlash represents a potentially significant turning point — one that implies that the days of unrestrained German multiculturalism may be coming to an end.
The latest protest took place in the eastern German city of Dresden on December 8, when more than 10,000 people defied freezing temperatures to express their displeasure with Germany's lenient asylum policies.
Germany — which is facing an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers, including many from Muslim countries — is now the second most popular destination in the world for migrants, after the United States.
The Dresden protest was organized by a new citizens initiative, "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," better known by its German abbreviation, PEGIDA, short for "Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes."
PEGIDA, which has been organizing so-called "evening walks" (Abendspaziergang) through downtown Dresden every Monday evening since October, has seen the number of protesters increase exponentially from week to week.
Similar anti-Islamization protests have been held in the western German cities of Hannover, Kassel and Düsseldorf...
These protests are similar to, but separate from, other mass demonstrations organized in Cologne and other German cities by a group called Hooligans against Salafists, or HoGeSa.
PEGIDA was launched by Lutz Bachmann, a 41-year-old Dresden native with no background in politics, after government officials in the eastern German state of Saxony announced that they would be opening more than a dozen new shelters to house some 2,000 refugees.
Bachmann says that he is not opposed to legitimate asylum seekers, but that he is against so-called economic refugees who are taking advantage of Germany's generous asylum laws in order to benefit from the country's cradle-to-grave social welfare system. According to Bachmann, most of the asylum seekers in Saxony are males who have left their families behind in war-torn Muslim countries.
Despite efforts by German politicians and the media to portray PEGIDA as neo-Nazi, the group has taken great pains to distance itself from Germany's extreme right. PEGIDA's motto is "We are the people!" (Wir sind das Volk!), the same slogan used by East Germans to bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989.
On December 10, PEGIDA published a "Position Paper" outlining what the group is "for" and "against" in 19 bullet points. These include:
- PEGIDA is FOR amending the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany to include a list of the right and the responsibility for immigrants to integrate.
- PEGIDA is AGAINST the establishment of parallel societies/parallel legal systems in our midst, such as Sharia Law, Sharia Police, and Sharia Courts, etc.
- PEGIDA is AGAINST hate preachers, regardless of religious affiliation.
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has already come out in support of the PEGIDA protests in Dresden. The AfD — which wants Germany to leave the euro single currency and promotes a tough line on immigration — received 4.7% of the vote in the September 2013 federal election, narrowly failing to reach the 5% threshold needed for representation in Germany's national parliament.
Since then, support for the AfD has surged. The party has extended its gains in regional elections, and also won nine seats in European Parliament elections in May 2014. A poll published in September 2014 found that one in ten German voters now support the AfD. And AfD spokesman Konrad Adam said the party has a "fundamental sympathy for the PEGIDA movement."
AfD leader Bernd Lucke, a professor of macroeconomics at Hamburg University, summed it up this way: "Many people in Germany have legitimate concerns about the spread of radical Islamic ideology, which promotes violence against non-Muslims, robs women and girls of their natural rights, and seeks to require the application of Sharia law. That citizens are expressing these concerns in nonviolent demonstrations is good and right. It is a sign that these people do not feel that their concerns are being taken seriously by politicians. It is an incentive for all politicians to act more decisively at a time when political Islam is challenging and calling into question our rule of law."