Although the German political group PEGIDA was formed last year, it has received a steady amount of attention from the European press. However, after last week’s terrorist attacks in France, the group has made even more headlines.
What is PEGIDA?
PEGIDA stands for “Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes” –– a German phrase that translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West.” The group is based out of Dresden, Germany.
It was founded in October 2014 by German activist Lutz Bachmann. The opinions of PEGIDA are outlined in its 19-point manifesto, but the group’s primary concern is stopping “Islamization.” Supporters of PEGIDA claim that too many Muslim refugees are immigrating to Germany in search of jobs and safety and that the country’s Judeo-Christian culture needs to be preserved through stricter immigration controls.
How are they protesting?
PEGIDA supporters have rallied in the streets of Dresden almost every Monday since Oct. 20, with a record 25,000 in
attendance at their most recent protest on Jan. 12, according to BBC News. Supporting rallies have also begun in other German cities including Berlin, Cologne and Stuttgart. Demonstrators often chant, “We are the people” –– a slogan adopted from the pro-democracy protests that took place in East Germany during the 1980s.
The group has also increased its presence online. During last week’s terrorist attacks in France, PEGIDA’s Facebook page gained more than 31,000 likes, bringing the page’s total likes to more than 128,000.
What has the response been like?
Counter demonstrations have emerged in response to the “anti-Islamization” rallies, and supporters of the protests against PEGIDA have typically outnumbered PEGIDA’s demonstrators. German chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized the group and urged Germans not to join PEGIDA’s movement.
“I say to all those who go to such demonstrations: do not follow those who have called the rallies because all too often they have prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts,” Merkel said in her New Year’s address. “Worldwide, there are more refugees than we have seen since the Second World War. Many literally escaped death. It goes without saying that we help them and take in people who seek refuge with us.”