Thousands of Germans will take to the streets today to protest against what they see as the country’s “Islamification” in what are likely to be the largest in a string of demonstrations in recent weeks.
Protests have started taking place each Monday in towns and cities across Germany, with 10,000 people now regularly joining the largest in Dresden. The gatherings are revival of the old East German tradition of “Monday Marches”, in which protesters gathered to march against the Communist government.
The Times says that in recent years, Germany has become the world’s second largest importer of immigrants behind only the United States, with 400,000 new arrivals in 2012.
The Berlin government is now becoming increasingly worried about the protests as they appear to gather momentum. Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned them after buildings intended to house asylum seekers were set alight in Bavaria, with one also daubed in swastikas.
The German government, which is currently formed of a “grand coalition” of the main centre-right and centre-left parties, maintains that the country’s liberal immigration policy is necessary due to an ageing population and low birth rates. Interior Minister Thomas de Mazière accused the Dresden march organisers of misleading the public, saying city had low levels of immigration compared to others.
However, a survey for Der Spiegel magazine showed that 65 percent of Germans thought their government was not taking immigration seriously enough, although only 34 percent thought the country was being “increasingly Islamised”.
With another march expected tonight, state-funded Deutsche Welle issued a strongly-worded editorial condemning the gatherings, saying: “When 10,000 people take to the streets in Dresden to protest the alleged Islamisation of the west, something has gone terribly wrong in Germany.
“Far-right extremists and demagogues with false messages have been successful in planting vague fears in the midst of society. And they have also provided a misguided answer — ‘Out with foreigners’ — to numerous difficult questions.”
As with Britain and France, immigration is has shot up the agenda in Germany recently, with mainstream parties struggling to find ways to deal with the growing concern. The Christian Social Union (CSU) – the Bavarian sister-party of Merkel’s CDU – recently proposed then retracted an idea that immigrants should be forced to speak German at home.
Similar demonstrations happened over the summer in Cologne, where hard line football supporters took to streets in what became known as “Hooligans against Salafists”.