The leafy city of Wuppertal became a flashpoint of religious and political tension at the weekend as it hosted three protests simultaneously – one by rapidly growing campaign group the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of Europe (PEGIDA), another by radical Islamist Salafist Muslims, and a third by locals demanding to be left alone.
Reports from the city, which is one of the greenest in Europe and boasts impressive Wilhelmine architecture and engineered structures, suggests that in addition to the officially declared protests, groups from violent radical left-wing protesters and football hooligans also descended to have their voices heard.
The anti-Islamification of Europe protest was addressed by PEGIDA founder Lutz Bachmann who had travelled from Dresden for the occasion. His organisation, from which he stood down earlier this year after a concerted media campaign to unseat him, before returning once the pressure had died down, represents a broad coalition of interests.
Diverging from a shared interest in limiting the influence of radical Islam on European public life, other points of contention include political correctness altering the German language, the equitable accommodation of asylum seekers across Europe, and the stultifying influence of the ‘liar press’, which has worked tirelessly to smear and unseat PEGIDA.
Concious of how easy it is to slip up in such a hostile media environment, Bachmann urged the attendees to heed his words and not to make a spectacle for the waiting cameras: “We’re here for our country. Don’t mess it up!”.
In another part of the city, sealed off by riot police, the Salafist demonstration took place in the courtyard of a church. Deutsche Welle reports the scene, where one Muslim speaker complained to the gathered dozens: “We’re here for justice… We Muslims are always to blame!” Although he was answered with a chorus of repeated “Allahu Akhbar!”, one group of hecklers is reported to have replied “shut your trap”.
The presence of Salafism, an ultra-conservative, traditionalist interpretation of Islam which places heavy emphasis on establishing a single, unifying world Islamic state under Sharia law, is controversial in Germany. Breitbart London reported last year on a series of violent clashes with Salafists as they squared up against both ‘Hogesa’ football hooligans, and with Kurdish émigrés protesting what they saw as “ISIS terrorist militias”.
Over 1,300 riot police were deployed to quell the unrest, during which weapons including firearms, kebab skewers, and uprooted street furniture were confiscated by police.