PEGIDA Rally in Germany Swells to Record Numbers

AP Photo/Jens Meyer
AP Photo/Jens Meyer

The anti-radical Islam group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) stages a protest every Monday in its native Dresden, Germany. On January 12, however, the group convened its largest rally yet, with 25,000 participants–significantly more due to last week’s terrorist attack in Paris, France. Attendees at the rally posted pictures and videos on social media.

After two radical Islamists killed twelve people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, PEGIDA took to social media with a statement that Germany should stop accepting Muslims.

“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.

A Russian flag appeared at the rally.

Also unique to those convened Monday was the fact that solidarity marches began to appear in other cities outside of Germany. This PEGIDA march occurred in Oslo.

One Twitter account posted an image that shows how PEGIDA rallies grew since the group was formed in October. The account wondered if the information is true, but reports prove the rallies are growing each week.

The group formed in response to a growing Muslim presence in Germany, in large part due to an influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Some Germans believe an increasingly visible Muslim presence in the nation is a threat to German and Western notions of freedom, particularly if Muslim immigrants attempt to impose Sharia law. Muslims experienced attacks in 2014 after Germany received 180,000 asylum applications from Syria, which is 57 percent more than 2013.

German authorities demanded the group cancel this rally out of respect for the victims in Paris. Merkel described the group as “heartless.”

Those against PEGIDA participated in counter rallies, but in much smaller numbers.