German officials asked the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) organization to cancel a rally scheduled on Monday due to the terrorism attacks in Paris, France.
“If the organizers had a shred of decency they would simply cancel these demonstrations,” stated German Justice Minister Heiko Maas. “The victims (of the Paris attacks) do not deserve to be abused by rabble-rousers like these. It’s just disgusting how the people behind these demos are exploiting the heinous crimes in Paris.”
Since October, the group has held weekly rallies on Mondays in Dresden, which is 120 miles south of Berlin. PEGIDA immediately responded to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack with a statement claiming Germany should stop accepting Muslims.
“Today the Islamists that PEGIDA has been warning you about for 12 weeks have showed you [sic] in France that they are not capable of democracy and that they see death and violence as the answer,” PEGIDA wrote on their Facebook page. “Will there have to be a tragedy in Germany?”
However, the group backed away from their original statements and claimed they want to use the rally to commemorate the victims in Paris, not condemn Islam.
“The brutal attacks in Paris show that we are in urgent need of a fresh and free European-wide general debate about freedom of speech and Islamism,” said Islamic studies Professor Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, who participated in PEGIDA marches.
But Maas does not believe PEGIDA’s change of heart since the group regularly “accuses the mainstream media of lying about immigration and other issues.”
“It’s outrageous they want to commemorate victims that until last week they insulted as liars,” said Maas.
Officials and citizens believe the march will only raise tensions in Germany.
“The people at the heart of PEGIDA must be delighted,” said Mulsim group Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat spokesman Mohammed Majoka. “This is what they have been trying to show people all along, that Islam is dangerous and Muslims should be kicked out.”
PEGIDA was formed in the fall of 2014 due to Germany’s acceptance of numerous Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghani refugees. Germany received 180,000 asylum applications in 2014, which is 57 percent more than 2013. But attacks on Muslims occurred before the group was formed. In December, neo-Nazi groups attacked empty buildings meant for refugees and left behind swastikas and anti-immigrant slogans. In October, a violent incident escalated as an unidentified group threw Molotov cocktails at buildings housing “eight families of different nationalities” in Groß Lüsewitz in Northern Germany. The beer bottles flamed out before they reached the homes. Police officers could not find the perpetrators but believe “the attackers had a political motive.” Also in October, over 4,000 people overturned a police van in Cologne at a rally against immigration. On August 11, a fire broke out at Berlin’s Mevlana Mosque. Authorities found flammable liquid at the scene, and they declared the crime arson.