Although the lights of of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin were extinguished to shame a PEGIDA demonstration last week, they were burning brightly yesterday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a rally of Muslim inhabitants of Berlin.
The rally, organised in part to show solidarity with those killed in Paris, and in part to signal opposition to the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA), featured Muslim community leaders, sung Islamic prayers, and a raft of top German politicians.
Although the turnout was significantly smaller than recent PEGIDA protests, German leaders flocked to be seen at the event. President Joachim Gauck spoke in glowing terms about what he saw as the success of multiculturalism in Germany: “Germany has become more diverse through the integration of religions, cultures and mentalities. That makes out country successful, interesting, and charming”.
German magazine Stern reported from the scene that there were almost more German government ministers than actual Muslims at the gathering, making it a “luxury rally of a well-meaning elite”. Chancellor Merkel said at the gathering: “Hatred, racism and extremism have no place in this country. We are a country based on democracy, tolerance and openness to the world”.
Her comments formed part of a constant, heavy critique of the PEGIDA movement. In her new year’s address the chancellor said it should “go without saying” that Germany should accept migrants from abroad.
Speaking of PEGIDA, she said: “Today many people are again shouting on Mondays: ‘We are the people’. But in fact they mean: You do not belong – because of the colour of your skin or your religion.
“So I say to everyone who goes to such demonstrations: Do not follow those who are appealing to you! Because too often there is prejudice, coldness, even hatred, in their hearts”.
News that their Chancellor had chosen a Muslim rally to make her criticism of PEGIDA, some protesters at Monday’s stroll took the opportunity to poke fun, carrying banners showing Merkel wearing an Arab headscarf.