Concern among Germans regarding the destructive potential of Islam within a free society has been growing in the past several years; even before last weeks gruesome attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, a plurality of Germans believed that Islam was “threatening” or “very threatening” to German society, according to one poll.
The poll, conducted by the think tank the Bertelsmann Foundation, found that a full 57% of Germans reported feeling threatened of “very threatened” by the religion. While released this week, the think tank notes that the survey was conducted in November, long before the Charlie Hebdo attacks and even before the establishment and growth of PEGIDA, an anti-radical Islamist movement based in Dresden.
The poll also asked whether Germans believed Islam could “fit into Western society”– as translated by The Local, 61% did not believe that it did. This, the organization noted, was a 9% increase since the survey was last conducted in 2012. The numbers on Islam being a threat increased 4% since 2012, as well. The most extreme question, asking Germans whether they felt “like foreigners in their own country” because of Islam, received a 40% affirmative response.
The poll also, interestingly, polled Muslims in Germany on a number of issues. 58% of German Sunni Muslims polled said they supported same-sex marriage — a significant deviation from some of the most prominent orthodox Islamic voices in civil society — and 90% of Sunnis in Germany approved of democracy as a political regime.
The numbers help explain the rapid growth of a movement like PEGIDA. The group, whose acronym stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of Europe,” has found support by the thousands in rallies organized mostly in Dresden, and growing into other parts of Germany. A poll conducted last week and flagged by Reuters found that one in eight Germans would participate in a PEGIDA rally, despite the German government strongly condemning the group as xenophobic. German state television has gone so far as to release cartoons aimed at children criticizing the anti-radical Islam group.
The organizers of the group announced over the weekend the intent to march once again today, this rally intended as an homage to those who died during the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Organizers are calling for participants to come to the rally wearing black armbands and plan a minute-long moment of silence for those who died at the hands of radical Islamists last week. It is expected that thousands will attend the rally in Dresden.