German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to attend a tolerance rally in support of the Muslim community on Tuesday, reports Agence France-Presse. The goal of the demonstration at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate is to counter the growing anti-Islamic sentiment in Germany in the wake of last week’s deadly attacks in Paris against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
“Hatred, racism and extremism have no place in this country,” Merkel said Tuesday in Berlin. “We are a country based on democracy, tolerance and openness to the world.” The comments were aimed at a right-wing group called Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident, whose march in Dresden on Monday drew around 25,000 demonstrators. Many of them wore black armbands and marched with flags draped in black to mourn the Paris victims.
"The Islamists, who Pegida have been warning about for 12 weeks, showed France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer," the group’s leaders said on Facebook, according to the Telegraph of London. "Our politicians want us to believe the opposite. Must such a tragedy happen here in Germany first?"
Pegida arose last year in Dresden, in the formerly Communist east of Germany. The group claims to have supporters in some 30 cities across Germany and 18 European countries. Opponents of Pegida accuse the group of using the Paris shooting to further a racist anti-immigration agenda. They said the anti-Islamist rallies are meant to provoke anger against foreigners. Counter-protests have been planned across Germany to denounce Pegida.
Merkel has repeatedly condemned Pegida. “Germany wants peaceful coexistence of Muslims and members of other religions,” she said during a press conference on Monday, after attending the huge "unity march" in Paris on Sunday.
Last week, masked gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles killed 12 people at the headquarters of French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Two of the assailants were later killed in standoffs with French police. A third suspect voluntarily turned himself in to authorities.
The Tuesday Berlin rally was organized by the Central Council of Muslims.