Starting in 2014, the German movement PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) has created headlines. It has gradually spread to other cities and even beyond Germany, but the first PEGIDA rallies began in Dresden. Some Scandinavian friends of mine wanted to go there. I decided to join them, to see this new phenomenon for myself.
On January 12 2015, the PEGIDA rally in Dresden in which I participated turned out to be even more significant than expected. In Paris just a few days earlier, staffers from the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo were massacred by Islamic Jihadist terrorists. Their crime? Among cartoons mocking many people and religions, they had also made some cartoons making fun of Islam’s founder Mohammed.
In solidarity, the PEGIDA demonstrators in Dresden carried banners showing the names and photos of the Charlie Hebdo staff who were murdered by militant Muslims. Next to German national and regional flags, the French flag was the most prominent one in the rally. I did see at least one Israeli flag, one English flag, a couple of Swedish flags, several Danish flags, plus one of one or two Norwegian flags, among others.
The lowest estimate for the number of people who participated in the rally this day was 25,000 people. The highest estimate was 40,000 people. It was apparently the biggest crowd so far. The number of people was so large that if you lost sight of your friends, you might not see them again for several hours.
The largest number of participants were undoubtedly local residents of Dresden or Saxony. However, there were also visitors from other parts of Germany and a few international visitors who came specifically to take part in the PEGIDA rally. I was one of them.
I talked to some friends from Denmark afterwards. It is noteworthy that so many people displayed the German national flag, openly and with pride. This would have been taboo some years earlier. Germans were then still too weighed down by guilt from the Second World War. For historical reasons, neighboring countries which have been invaded by Germany in the past view their large neighbor with some suspicion. Despite this, my Danish friends concluded that they were fine with what they had seen in Dresden.
PEGIDA is not about aggressive German nationalism. It is about the normalization of Germany. Germans should not invade Poland or other countries for Lebensraum. However, they have the perfect right to reject Arabs, Turks or others from expanding their own Lebensraum in Germany.
I had a good look at thousands of people. There were hardly any skinheads present. I saw more grandmothers. The people who participated in this peaceful demo were simply normal, concerned citizens, many of them well-dressed. The only tensions I registered were triggered by some rather few left-wing counter-demonstrators who shouted senseless slogans.
While looking at the different slogans and banners, many of them were indeed related to Islam and Islamization. However, some people in the PEGIDA demo carried posters denouncing biased mass media or the EU. PEGIDA is anti-Islamic, but it is also anti-totalitarian, anti-establishment and in favor of traditional European culture.
One of the reasons why other Europeans who participated found it natural to support PEGIDA is that we realized that we have largely the same cause. These Germans are not our enemies. They are rather our allies in the battle against Islamization, mass immigration, lying media and hostile EU elites.
I had an interesting discussion with some Scandinavian friends about why PEGIDA started in Dresden in the former East Germany. You can see more veiled Muslim women within five minutes in Berlin, or in a Western German city such as Hamburg or Cologne, than you will probably see during an entire day in Dresden. Dresden is still a European city. So why did protests against Islamization start there?
The best explanation I can come up with is that the people of East Germany (DDR) had gone straight from national Socialism to international Socialism. They lived under various forms of totalitarianism for generations. For that reason, they recognize totalitarian thinking and propaganda when they see it. That is why they are now skeptical of Islam and the EU. A Czech lady I talked to who grew up under Communist rule supported this conclusion.
Unfortunately, not everybody learned the right lesson. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has denounced PEGIDA. She has stressed that “Islam is part of Germany,” vowed to defend Muslims and charged that PEGIDA’s leaders are motivated by “ prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts.” Merkel grew up in the former Communist dictatorship of East Germany (DDR). Apparently, the main thing she learned there was to remain loyal to the ruling ideology: Communism promoted by the Soviet Union, or Multiculturalism promoted by the European Union.
Chancellor Merkel and President Joachim Gauck attended a Berlin vigil organized by Muslim groups. Aiman Mazyek, head of the German Council of Muslims, told the crowd: “We stand together for a Germany that is open to the world, with a big heart, which honors freedom of opinion, of the press and of religion.”
The PEGIDA rallies constitute some of the largest political demonstrations in Germany since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since they directly challenge the political ruling class and their ideology, it was likely that the ruling elites would use all available tricks to silence them.
A few days later, it was announced that the weekly PEGIDA rally scheduled for January 19 was cancelled by the Dresden police. The police stated that they had credible evidence indicating that the rally and its leaders would be targeted by Jihadist terrorists, possibly with links to the Islamic State (ISIS). A spokesperson said that despite the threats, PEGIDA plans to continue in Dresden in the future.
It is quite possible that this terror warning was genuine. If so, it is deeply alarming that Islamic terrorists now seem to have gained a veto over what Western citizens can or cannot do in their own countries. A rally against Islamization was cancelled due to Islamization.
What is particularly ironic and worrisome, however, is that Islamic Jihadist terrorists seem to be allies of Western political elites and mass media. The German government, including Chancellor Merkel and the Minister of Justice, denounced PEGIDA. Islamic terrorists managed to get a PEGIDA demo cancelled.
The ruling elites in much of Europe openly embrace the continued expansion of Islamic culture in their societies and denounce those who criticize Islamization. This it not a conspiracy theory. It is not even a theory. It is merely an observation.