Turkish and Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) based in Germany, which hosts one of the largest populations of Muslim immigrants in Europe, have harshly condemned anti-Islam demonstrations held under the guise of patriotism in eastern Germany.
Criticizing populist German politicians as well as the German media, representatives of the NGOs stated that the prejudicial attitudes and behavior of political figures and media led to the creation of racist groups such as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Pegida).
“While populist politicians have for years approached their Muslim minorities in an extremely prejudiced way, the German media, with their Islamophobic headlines, have paved the way for Islamophobia,” said European-Turkish Islam Union (ATİB) chief İhsan Öner.
According to German media reports, Pegida grew out of a social media group and now comprises at least 17,000 people who have gathered regularly since early December in Dresden, the birthplace of the movement, to protest against Islam, incoming Muslim immigrants and what they call “religious extremism.”
Every Monday at 6 p.m., tens of thousands of people assemble in Dresden, a city in eastern Germany, and chant slogans against Islam, Muslim immigrants and the Islamization of the country and of Europe. The group’s Facebook page has nearly 95,000 followers. The latest rally took place on Dec. 29 and the next one is scheduled to take place on Jan. 5, 2015.
Calling for an end to the political bias and media reports that are fueling anti-Muslim sentiments and thus leading to the formation of racist groups such as Pegida within German society, NGOs such as the European-Turkish Islamic Union (ATİB), the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), the Federation of Democratic Workers Associations (DİDF) and the Islamic Society of National Vision (IGMG) said Germany can do better in its attempts to fight racism and discrimination.
ATİB General Director Öner believes these anti-İslamic movements and behavior have increased. “We are concerned as to our future as a Muslim minority in this country,” he said.
Commenting on the claims of growing Islamization in Germany and Europe, Öner said: “How are Muslims, who are unable to preserve their cultural assets for their next generations, supposed to capture Europe? Even the crows would laugh at this!”
IGMG General Secretary Mustafa Yeneroğlu believes Pegida is the result of irresponsible security politics in Germany.
“All these concerns were fueled for years by our politicians. Since 9/11, Islam and Muslims were highlighted by politicians as the main threat in terms of internal security. There needs to be a differentiation between actual threat risks and innocent people,” Yeneroğlu said.
Yerenoğlu called on German politicians to review their security policies and urged security units to participate in intercultural and inter-religious education. “It is clear that we need enlightening programs that are important to fight far-right groups, anti-Semitism and Islam enmity.”
ZMD head Aiman Mazyek underlined that Pegida does not represent all of Germany, saying, “We live in a country full of diversity and we are proud of that.”
Demanding that they take serious measures against the anti-Islam discrimination, the Muslim DİDF board issued a statement saying, “The rallies staged under the name of Against the Islamization of Europe and those who are joining these rallies are increasing each day.
“However, Germany did not come to this point all of a sudden. This picture is a product of different parties and media which have for years agitated against refugees and asylum seekers coming from Islamic countries.” DİDF also called on the German government “to immediately stop the racist marches and hatred fueling demonstrations in Germany.”
The German government has reacted to the demonstrations. In the early days of the anti-Islamization protests, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against discrimination. “There’s freedom of assembly in Germany, but there’s no place for incitement and lies about people who come to us from other countries,” she was quoted as saying in Berlin.
Responding to growing anti-Muslim immigrant sentiments in Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Saturday that the benefits of immigration should be taken into consideration.
“The world is more open and immigration helps everyone. Just as millions of refugees helped us rebuild after World War II, so too do we need immigration today,” Schaeuble told the news source Bild Online, Reuters reported.
Germany, ever conscious of its Nazi past, has one of the most liberal asylum policies in the world. President Joachim Gauck also reacted to the demonstrations with his statement last week saying, “People are right to fear Islamist terrorism. But not Islam.”
In recent days a new anti-Pegida platform formed online at change.org calling for 1 million signatures to establish “a colorful Germany.” The campaign was initiated by Karl Lempert from the city of Hannover. By Monday of this week, more than 200,000 people had signed the petition.