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After the attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in France last week, anti-Islam rallies in Germany are seen to be growing rapidly. The rallies are being held by a group known as Pegida, which means in English: Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident.
Pegida is a right wing organization in Germany that is holding protests in various cities to fight against the growing influence of Islam in the everyday life of the country. The organization claims that the influence of Islam is slowly destroying the European culture. They also are against certain immigration practices, asylum seekers, and they want the “protection of Judeo-Christian culture” for the Western world.
Although the protests in Germany have been taking place for some time, the number of attendees has been rather small in the past. On October 20 of last year, the first rally only had about 350 people present. At a meeting on January 5, there were 18,000 protestors there. Once the killings at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices had taken place, the number of participants has grown greatly.
An anti-Islam march that took place in the city of Dresden on Monday night had an estimated 25,000 people marching in the event. This was the 12th of the anti-Muslim marches that are taking place weekly. It had about 7,000 more people than were in any of the previous marches.
The cry of the anti-Islam marchers is “We are the people,” aiming it at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently commented that Muslim people are now part of Germany, too. The founder of Pegida, Lutz Bachman, is clearly not in agreement and he is gathering many others of like opinion around him.
Others also marched, and they did so in opposition to Pegida. Police estimate that the pro-Muslim marchers had a larger gathering than those with the anti-Muslim sentiment. The two groups met on Dresden’s streets, but there was no trouble as Bachman’s group simply walked around the other protestors.
Many of the anti-Islam marchers who gathered to join Bachman were there honoring those who died in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some of them carried banners that had the names of the people that died in the attack, and others had black armbands also worn in memory.
The goal of Pegida is not to stop the Muslim people from moving into Germany. Instead, Bachman wants to allow the Muslim immigrants to integrate into the German society as it is, and not to see the culture Islamized, which would cause the loss of democracy and freedom. They also want to see the activities of groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda stopped in Europe.
The growing anti-Islam sentiment is not limited to Germany. The organization claims that it has people who support it in 18 European countries, as well as in 30 cities in Germany. It is trying to maintain a distance from neo-Nazi groups in the country.
Chancellor Merkel, who is well aware of the growing anti-Islam rallies by Pegida, encouraged the people of Germany not to follow the organizers of the group. She was scheduled to attend a vigil on Tuesday night that was organized by Muslims to remember those killed in the Charlie Hebdo attack.
By Mike Valles