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GOWHAR GEELANI | 14 JANUARY, 2015

Germany Reels Under Islamophobia

Pegida leads the anti-Islam outcry in Germany


People who attacked journalists at Charlie Hebdo actually may not have known magnitude of the violent and deplorable act that they perpetrated against humanity and the consequences thereof.

The most worrying aspect is that Germany— a country renowned for its tolerance and understanding values of unity — is witnessing more and more anti-Islam rallies.

Der Spiegel [The Mirror], hugely respected German newspaper, carried out a poll last month and found that 34% of respondents believe that Germany was becoming “increasingly Islamicized.”

A far-right protest group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, has been mobilising public opinion for anti-Islam protests and organizing rallies on Mondays since October last year. This Monday, the eastern German city saw the 12th protest march since.

This so-called movement came to the fore last year in Dresden.

At a time when rational voices feel offended and outraged by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it is also time to reflect on the possibility that the terror attack may have actually turned out to be a unifying factor for all extremist voices in Europe, including Germany.

Though the people protesting against Islam in Germany are a vocal minority their numbers are swelling with each passing day, too.

The CNN while quoting Dresden police reported that the number of people attending these rallies has increased from an estimated 350 protesters on October 20to 18,000 on January 5.

As I interacted with my friends and colleagues in Germany through social media, I felt pleased that most Germans do not subscribe to the extremist views voiced by the PEGIDA.

A Pakistani friend Atif Baloch, who is originally from Multan and lives and works in Bonn, told me that PEGIDA is a “very small group” and that their protests are “not a threat”.

Baloch’s words were indeed very satisfying.

After talking to this him I wanted to get another perspective.

Rajiv Kumar, who works at German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, said that in everyday life Germans don’t talk about such things.

“For the majority it [PEGIDA protests] is a non-issue,” Kumar said.

He argued that German people, in general, do not take PEGIDA very seriously.

However, the German government is worried about the rise of PEGIDA and therefore trying to address the France attacks with a sense of calm. The government is aware that the Paris attack could boost anti-Islam current and stoke passions.

Tariq Ramadan, professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, while speaking to Aljazeera Television had a good piece of advice for Muslims living across the world, especially for those living and working in Europe.

“We [Muslims] have to stop being reactive. And we have to stop isolating ourselves. I’m a Western citizen. I’m a European citizen. And this is the time for us to get mainstream, not only to talk about Islam, because often I’m invited to talk as a Muslim on Islam. We need to talk about education; we need to talk about social justice, we need to talk about economy. We need to talk about the issues that we’re dealing in the West…..”

Whatever the ‘driving force’ behind the dreadful and deplorable terror attack in French capital Paris, the uncomfortable truth is that the so-called sympathisers of Islam have caused immense pain to Muslims around the globe, in general, and Muslims living and working in European Union (EU) member nations, in particular.

PEGIDA, on its Facebook page, urges European citizens to “wake from their slumber” and recognize the “danger in the Islamic ideology.”

However, German Chancellor Angele Merkel has openly voiced her disagreement with the PEGIDA.

Apart from Dresden the anti-Islam protests have been organized in other German cities like the capital Berlin, Hannover, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Leipzig, etc.

Even if Germany’s Islamaphobes represent a vocal minority they have at least succeeded in indicating a possible ‘fissure’ in German society.

According to German media a total of 25,000 had turned out in support of the latest anti-Islam demonstrations organized by PEGIDA. However, counter PEGIDA protest demonstrations are also being held in several German cities, which outnumber the far-right extremist group.

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