Anti-Islam protests in Germany after Charlie Hebdo

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The German anti-Islam protest movement European Patriots against the Islamization of Europe (PEGIDA) has mobilized less demonstrators within the last week. The thirteenth event of PEGIDA in Dresden mobilized approximately 17.000 adherents, while earlier events were supported by far more than 25.000 demonstrators. Anti-PEGIDA initiatives such as “Dresden nazifrei” gathered 5.000 supporters.

Some organizers of PEGIDA such as Kathrin Oertel have been invited to German talk shows at Prime time. Oertel blamed left-wing parties to ignore the “reasons for violence”, while avoiding any clear distance towards hooligans and Neonazi groups.

While German media and politicians discuss the causes and effects of PEGIDA on Germany, debating how to deal with the protesters, the Technical University of Dresden presented numbers of a study conducted three weeks ago. 400 demonstrators have been asked to participate and respond to questionnaires. Only 35% agreed to participate in the study. The aim was to identify the “typical” PEGIDA demonstrator. According the study, typical demonstrators are well educated, in the mid 40s and mainly male. These demonstrators are not religious and are not affiliated to any party. They are motivated by dissatisfaction with politics, media and public. Also, protesters share fundamental resentments against immigrants and asylum seekers, emphasizing their concerns about Muslims and Islam. However, the protests are interpreted as public articulation against the political elites.

In an interview, Ender Cetin the representative of the Sehitlik mosque, which is part of the Turkish Islamic Union and Institute for Religion (Ditib) in the district of Neukölln Berlin and the preacher Abdul Adhim Kamouss raised their concerns about public opinion towards Islam. Kamouss has been observed by the security authorities and said to be close to Salafist circles in Berlin. According to both, public need to understand that Islam and terror would share nothing in common. Kamouss and Cetin condemned the attacks against Charlie Hebdo as a brutal act and called their community members to participate at the manifestation for freedom of speech and against violence. Kamouss emphasized the importance of freedom of speech but expressed his regret about the offending character of the cartoons. These images would incite people and an illegal act against minorities. Dialogue would be the key to avoid hatred and terror as mosques and Islamic centers have been targets of assaults throughout the last months.

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