Thousands of Germans are marching in protests against what they say is the growing “Islamisation” of the country.
Berlin: A new type of anti-immigration protest is sweeping across Germany, as thousands take to the streets against what they say is the growing “Islamisation” of the country.
The new protests, which began in Dresden in the former East Germany, feature no neo-Nazi slogans and have nothing to do with the traditional far right.
Instead, the demonstrators have adopted the old rallying call of the protests against the East German communist regime that brought down the Berlin Wall 25 years ago, “Wir sind das Volk”, or “We are the people”. They say they want to preserve Germany’s Judaeo-Christian Western culture.
The protests come as Bavaria’s ruling Christian Social Union (CSU) is seeking to distance itself from a draft proposal for its party conference which said that immigrants should speak German not only in public, but at home as well.
Germany is now the second most popular destination in the world for migrants, after the US, and the country is struggling to cope with an unprecedented influx of asylum seekers.
While Angela Merkel’s government has made clear it will block any attempt by British Prime Minister David Cameron to curtail freedom of movement within the EU, the German debate over immigration has focused on those coming from outside the bloc, and on Muslims in particular.
Thousands have defied subzero temperatures to join weekly marches each Monday in Dresden under the banner of Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of Europe, or Pegida.
The protests were started by a local man, Lutz Bachmann, with no background in politics. When he called his first protest in October, only a few hundred turned up, but the movement has snowballed, and last week 7500 came.
Pegida has inspired similar movements across Germany. Though the numbers have not been as high as in Dresden, marches have been called in cities from Dusseldorf to Munich.