PEGIDA provides Germans an opportunity to speak out
Given that Turks represent the majority of Muslims in Germany, it is not surprising that the activities of the group known as PEGIDA, the German acronym for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident,” should be attracting attention in Turkey.
The fact that 18,000 people gathered in Dresden on Jan. 5 for this group’s largest demonstration yet only increased this interest and the concerns that come with it. But there is another and more positive way of looking at the topic.
PEGIDA is also giving decent Germans the opportunity to come out and take a moral stance against a movement that has “hatred in its heart,” as Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her New Year’s message. It is good to see her leading the way for good Germans to distance themselves from this group.
That should not be hard to do since PEGIDA is loaded with unsavory historic connotations with its slogans like “Germany for Germans,” as well as torchlight demonstrations. Clearly, though, none of this is lost on the majority of Germans.
They have started to come out in counter demonstrations across Germany, displaying numbers that are larger than PEGIDA’s supposed show of force. Reporting on these counter demonstrations, the BBC said PEGIDA has “provoked disgust and shame” among Germans.
Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt – who incidentally is no supporter of Turkey’s EU bid – has also added his voice to the anti-PEGIDA demonstrations. He declared that the protests by this group “appeal to base prejudices, xenophobia and intolerance. But that’s not Germany.”
Meanwhile, Cologne Cathedral and Berlin’s world famous Brandenburg Gate switched off their lights in support during the anti-PEGIDA demonstrations, showing that the Church and local authorities in Germany are not taking the matter lightly.
According to the head of the Forsa polling institute, Manfred Gullner, PEGIDA will fizzle out. “PEGIDA is a peripheral group.” Gullner told The National, an English-language paper published in Abu Dhabi. “It will die out if the politicians are clever and don’t pander to it.”
With the relative growth in support for the far right in Europe, including Germany, there will no doubt be politicians who, in the hope of increasing their voter base, “pander” to PEGIDA supporters.
Altering German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s famous remark to suit current needs, we can say that hateful rightwing ideologies are “like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine.” The majority of decent Germans are undoubtedly aware of this by now.
There is, however, the other side of the coin. The rise in anti-Islamic sentiment in the West is obviously not a phenomenon that came out of a void. Hateful acts committed in the name of Islam by groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) cannot be disregarded here.
If we saw more protest rallies involving thousands of people from the Islamic communities in the West every time an innocent Westerner is brutally decapitated by members of such group, many of who come from Europe, this would act as an antidote to the rise in Islamophobia President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan always complains about.
This is ultimately a two-way street and politicians, as well as opinion makers in the Islamic world, have to also be clever enough to refrain from pandering to anything that in any way encourages the kind of acts that enrage people in the West. Put another way, decent people across this dangerous fault line have to unite against the forces of darkness.
The above was written hours before news of the attack in Paris. That attack, which has taken so many lives, merely reinforces my argument about the need to unite against the forces of darkness.