The leaders of the so-called “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident” have asked marchers to wear black armbands and observe a minute’s silence for “the victims of terrorism in Paris.”
Many observers of the rise of the far-right populist movement in the eastern city of Dresden now expect it to seek to make political capital from the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and its bloody aftermath.
Fears over the events probably “will buoy currents of the vague xenophobia that exist in this country”, Everhard Holtmann of Halle-Wittenberg University told the Handelsblatt business daily.
“The Islamophobia syndrome, on the crest of which PEGIDA rides, could in fact gain strength.”
PEGIDA has voiced a wide range of grievances and railed against diverse enemies, not just Islam and asylum-seekers, but also the media and a political elite whom they accuse of diluting Germany’s Christian-based culture with multi-culturalism.
Launched in October with a march of just 500 people, it has since swelled rapidly, stirring anguished debate in a country whose dark history makes expressions of xenophobia especially worrisome.
Chancellor Angela Merkel deplored the rise of PEGIDA in a New Year’s address, saying its leaders have “prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”.
Nonetheless, next Monday “it is likely that there will be even more people” than the record 18,000 who joined the latest rally, said Frank Richter, head of Dresden’s civic education centre.