In Dresden, Germany, 17,000 Protest Radical Islam and Unrestricted Immigration December 24, 2014

In Dresden, Germany, 17,000 Protest Radical Islam and Unrestricted Immigration

These weekly protests have been growing in size, and are spreading from Dresden to other German cities.

A record 17,000 people have joined the latest in a string of demonstrations against Islam in Dresden, eastern Germany, celebrating the rise of their far-right populist movement by singing Christmas carols. The march on Monday night was organized by Patriotic Europeans Against Islamization of the West [German acronym PEGIDA] — a group that has grown rapidly since its first protest in October.

Among the slogans the protesters carry on placards are “Against religious fanaticism” and “Against religious wars on German soil.”

Most Pegida followers insist they are not Nazis but patriots who worry about the “watering down” of their Christian-rooted culture and traditions.

German church officials are trying to distance themselves from the right-wing demonstrators’ religious references.

The Protestant bishop of Saxony state, Jochen Bohl, said the Pegida followers, by singing Christmas carols, were seeking “to exploit a Christian symbol and a Christian tradition” for political purposes.

Pegida, born in a city that was part of communist East Germany until the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, has spawned copycat groups in western areas which have failed so far to attract similar crowds. Smaller clone groups rallied Monday in the western cities of Bonn, Kassel and Wuerzburg, but they only drew up to 200 followers each and were all vastly outnumbered by counter-demonstrations that drew 20,000 nationwide.

In Dresden, on Monday,

About 4,500 counter-demonstrators marched through the city under the slogan “Dresden Nazi-free”, warning that there was no space for racism and xenophobia in the country that perpetrated the Holocaust.

According to the Guardian,

The movement has emerged at a time when Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, has become the continent’s top destination for asylum seekers, and the world’s number two destination for migrants after the United States. The influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and several African and Balkan countries has strained local governments, which have scrambled to house the newcomers in old schools, office blocks and army barracks.

Wikipedia downplays the movement’s pro-Christian angle and also stays away from the Nazi comparisons, noting

In [its December 2014] manifesto PEGIDA advocates for the protection of Germany’s Judeo-Christian culture and for tolerance toward assimilated and politically moderate Muslims. It calls Islam a misogynist and violent ideology. PEGIDA believes that war refugees should be welcomed in Germany. It considers the current facilities for the housing of immigrants to be inadequate and partly inhumane. It advocates for a more decentralized distribution of facilities and a fairer allocation of immigrants among the countries of the European Union.

It wants to model German immigration policies after those of the Netherlands and Switzerland and wants to facilitate integration of foreigners into German society. Current laws should be strictly enforced, the police should be given additional funding, and criminal refugees and immigrants should be promptly expelled. In addition, PEGIDA opposes constraints on political speech imposed by gender mainstreaming or political correctness.

The PEGIDA protests are, in part, a response to this:

Radical Muslims in the city of Wuppertal in western Germany have begun operating a “Sharia police” force in an attempt to impose Islamic law on local Muslims. … About a dozen young Muslim men wearing orange safety vests with the words “Sharia Police” were seen this week outside the city’s discos and pubs and patrolling its streets, [promoting] Islamic strictures against alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography and prostitution.

… and this:

[German Muslims Abu Malik and Mohamed Mahmoud, the latter a convicted terrorism sympathizer] launched the “Millatu-Ibrahim” (“The Community of Ibrahim”) missionary project and went from mosque to mosque, selling Islam as pop culture. They want the young men they approach to distance themselves from the kuffar, be proud of their religion “and not be ashamed to carry a weapon,” Mahmoud tells his supporters on YouTube. He claims that Millatu-Ibrahim already has branches in Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Flensburg and Solingen.

Both the PEGIDA demonstrators and the people they criticize have plenty of unsavory and misguided characters in their midst. While exercising all due caution, it might be a mistake to condemn either group for that reason alone.

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