Anti-Islam rallies have rebounded in Germany since a quiet period in the summer, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approval ratings have slipped as German municipalities strive to stem a deluge of Islamic asylum seekers, creating a backlash in arson attacks on refugee camps.
On the first anniversary of P.E.G.I.D.A. (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, the anti-Islam movement has called for rallies against Germany’s decision to admit up to 800,000 refugees from the Middle East. After a thinning attendance over the last few months, the regular Monday night assembly of P.E.G.I.D.A. has grown to about 9,000 participants, according to NBC News.
Founded in Dresden in October 2014, the German group behind the anti-Islam rallies has been linked by analysts to a general discontent with German politics. Their study described the phenomenon as “fundamental resentments against migrants and asylum seekers.”
Professor Werner J. Patzelt of Dresden’s Technical University, shared his opinion with NBC News.
“Today we see an inner hardening among the movement, participants have become angrier and more upset, which can be described as a radicalization. I am concerned about the general problem, a polarization within the German public, which P.E.G.I.D.A. is only a symptom of.”
Patzelt pointed out that while P.E.G.I.D.A. developed from a private Facebook group, with 300 people at the first demonstration one year ago, it now has the support of mainstream German citizens who perceive their culture to be under attack.
University sources described nearly 20 percent of the group’s members as young, far-right extremists, and emphasized that the majority of its followers “are not right-wing radicals.”
According to Independent, English Defence League (E.D.L.) founder Tommy Robinson spoke at the Dresden anti-Islam convergence on Monday night, October 19, 2015, to mark the one-year anniversary of P.E.G.I.D.A.. Thousands of anti-immigration protesters were on hand to hear his declared support of their rallies.
“Angela Merkel seems to be handing out the birth right of German citizens like she is handing out candy to children…this current immigration is an invasion. Our borders are being overrun. There is little or no control. A country that cannot control its borders will soon not be a country. We need one banner. Save our culture. Save our country. Save our future. Unite to save a future for our children.”
According to U.S. News, at least three journalists were assaulted in one of the anti-Islam rallies by people shouting “Lying press, smash their faces!”
Hendrik Zoerner, a spokesman for the German Federation of Journalists, said the union has observed a growing tendency in anti-Islam rallies for participants to attack journalists, and a reluctance of bystanders to prevent the violence.
In two previous anti-Islam rallies a month ago, there were three reported incidents of journalists getting assaulted by protesters.
Deutsche Welle broadcast reporter Jaafar Abdul Karim was allegedly hit in the neck by demonstrators as he and two colleagues were attempting to do live interviews. Berlin-based news agency Ruptly also reported that one of its cameramen was ganged up on by neo-Nazis who destroyed his photographic equipment in the process. The third incident, according Dresden police spokesman Thomas Geithner, involved a photographer roughed up by four protesters who made away with his camera.
According to BBC, German chancellor Angela Merkel could be viewed as an isolated figure, hell-bent on an unpopular policy which could very well bring down her chancellorship. Thirty-four of her own conservative local party leaders have accused her of pursuing a policy that is nether part of her party’s program nor in line with German and European law. And as they debate, the anti-Islam rallies continue.
[Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images]