Mass protest: Thousands of activists gather in the east German city of Dresden on December 22 for a rally of “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West”. Photo: AP
Dresden: Defying appeals from an array of German institutions, anti-immigrant marchers planned to rally again in the city of Dresden on Monday, parading their stated fear of Europe’s Islamisation, along with their emergence as a force of thousands of protesters commanding national attention.
The protesters, rallied by a murky movement known as PEGIDA, a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West, swelled to 17,500 outside Dresden’s historic Semper opera house before Christmas and were the talk of Germany during the holidays. In her New Year’s address, Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Germans to avoid the marches and their organisers, who she said had “prejudice, coldness and even hatred in their hearts”.
By Monday, business leaders had joined the swelling chorus against PEGIDA from established political parties, the Catholic and Protestant churches, social groups – some of which planned pro-immigration rallies in cities around Germany – and even from anonymous jokesters who set up a spoof “Snowgida” page on Facebook.
Ingo Kramer, head of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, said “Germany’s image as a business location is being damaged by the impression that we are demonstrating against foreigners”.
“We need immigration for our labour market and to allow our social system to function,” he added in a statement.
The fear of foreigners, and especially of Muslims, threatening or drowning out national and regional identities forged over centuries seems to have a growing pull in Europe, where populists and nationalists scored record votes in last May’s elections for the European Parliament.
Since reuniting in 1990, Germany has experienced outbursts of racist violence, directed against foreigners, and often in the east, where barely 1 per cent of the population was non-German in communist times.
In recent years, however, the Germans have offered asylum liberally, beginning with refugees of the Balkan wars in the early 1990s. The Nazi past is often cited as a reason to roll out the welcome mat, but that has worn thin in recent months because of an influx of about 200,000 asylum seekers in 2014 – four times the total for 2012 – and the strain of housing so many people.
Dresden’s demonstrators insist they are not against asylum or refugees, but they resent abuse of the system and helping “economic refugees” whom the anti-immigrant camp sees as either threatening German jobs or mooching off Germany’s generous welfare system.
An anti-euro party, the Alternative for Germany, is flirting with anti-foreigner sentiment and won seats in three state legislatures in eastern Germany last fall. While its leaders are bickering furiously, at least some have attended the Dresden rallies and are willing to meet PEGIDA.
Across the established political spectrum, argument has raged about whether to engage directly with PEGIDA, as well as how to confront its clear appeal for a disgruntled segment of the German population. Its supporters include known far-rightists, neo-Nazis and soccer hooligans, as well as a larger number of average citizens who seem worried about losing status, even if in Dresden and the surrounding state of Saxony barely 2 per cent of residents are foreigners and even fewer are Muslims.
Berthold Kohler, a publisher of the influential centre-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, noted on Monday in a commentary titled “Terribly Simple,” that despite Mrs Merkel’s committed stand against the PEGIDA movement, it was clear her grand coalition government of centre-right and centre-left was still trying to figure out what to do. The movement, he said, was “the tip of the iceberg” when it came to a loss of faith in elites or institutions across the board.
Mrs Merkel’s partner in her conservative bloc, the Bavarian Christian Social Union, plans to debate what it calls “a fair and balanced asylum policy” at a meeting this week. It seeks swifter processing of asylum requests and deportation of abusers, portraying this as the only way to continue guaranteeing a welcome for hundreds of thousands of legitimate refugees, particularly from Syria and Iraq.
“People are reacting to the situation with much understanding, empathy and remarkable voluntary engagement,” the party said in the proposal. “This readiness to help should not be toyed with.”
All who were helping should be thanked, it added, “for they are the face of modern Germany, open to the world”.
Among the many voices discussing PEGIDA were two writers, Peter Schneider and Monika Maron, who each published over the weekend their impressions of a visit to the last PEGIDA rally on December 22.
“For my taste,” Schneider wrote in the newspaper Die Welt, “the crowd was too white.” He also reported being “not so much alarmed but saddened” by the feeble rendering of Christmas carols for which the anti-Islam crowd had ostensibly assembled.
Meanwhile, he noted, there were any number of problems – he mentioned Islamic State jihadists, Palestinian immigrants unleashing anti-Semitism, or European women opposing Muslim attitudes towards women – that did need airing, and that were urgent not so much in Dresden as in heavily immigrant areas of cities such as Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels and London.
The answer to all this certainly did not lie in declining any dialogue with PEGIDA or its supporters, Schneider wrote.
“If political correctness means that facts can no longer be called by their name,” he concluded, “then society is robbing itself of a viable future.”
Source Article from http://www.theage.com.au/world/defiant-protesters-holding-another-antiimmigrant-rally-in-german-city-of-dresden-20150106-12ifpe.html
Defiant protesters holding another anti-immigrant rally in German city of Dresden
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results
immigrant – Yahoo News Search Results