Tens of thousands of people attended a massive rally against racism and xenophobia in the German city of Dresden Saturday, after recent anti-immigration demonstrations in Europe. “We won’t permit that hate will divide us,” Dresden Mayor Helma Orosz told some 35,000 people in front of the 18th-century Frauenkirche, according to Reuters.
A new grassroots movement, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida, has flooded Dresden with weekly protests. The movement, warning that Germany is being swarmed by Muslims, drew a record 18,000 people at a demonstration in the eastern German city last Monday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the demonstrations and said the Pegida organizers have “hatred in their hearts,” Reuters reported.
A recent survey found that 57 percent of non-Muslim Germans said they feel threatened by Islam, Reuters reported. The survey also found that one in four non-Muslim Germans want to ban the immigration of Muslims: There are about 4 million living among Germany’s 82 million residents. The greatest levels of fear were recorded in regions such as the eastern state of Saxony, which is home to the Dresden protests but few Muslims.
“That 57 percent reject Islam is something we need to think about indeed,” Aydan Oezoguz, Germany’s federal commissioner for migration, refugees and integration, told Reuters. “The most decisive finding for me is that the aversion is greatest where the fewest Muslims live -- a phenomenon that we’re seeing in the Pegida demonstrations.”
The survey, issued by Emnid pollsters for the Bertelsmann Foundation think tank, questioned 937 people and was conducted in late November, before the attack by jihadist gunmen on a satirical newspaper in Paris Wednesday.
The terror attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo has fueled demonstrations in France and countries around the world. Most of the rallies have been in mourning of the 10 journalists killed by the gunmen, who reportedly had connections to al Qaeda in Yemen. About 700,000 people marched in the streets of France Saturday in support of the journalists, plus seven others who were killed during the three-day-long manhunt for the jihadist gunmen, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told Agence France-Press.
But Merkel expressed concern that the attack could escalate the anti-Muslim rallies in Europe and provoke a culture war. “We have made clear that the events in France, this barbaric terrorist act, are a challenge for all of us, for the values that we advocate, to fight for them," Merkel said after a party meeting of her Christian Democrats in Hamburg Saturday, according to Reuters.