Europe between past and future

Jan 18, 2015

PEGIDA is the rise of fascism in Germany



PEGIDA is the rise of fascism in Germany

  The protests held every Monday in the German city of Dresden, a hotbed of far-right activities and a neo-Nazi stronghold, with xenophobic and Islamophobic discourses, have drawn growing numbers of people. We are faced with a new movement that manifests itself through rallies with anti-Islam banners and chants in this city, which has seen anti-Islam sentiment on the rise in recent years. Growing participation in rallies held by the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA), confronts us with a new phenomenon that should be analyzed by social scientists. PEGIDA's rallies in the square in front of the Semperoper opera house in Dresden drew 500 people on Oct. 27, 1,000 people on Nov. 3, 1,700 people on Nov. 10, 3,000 people on Nov. 17, 5,500 on Nov. 24, 7,500 on Dec. 1, 10,000 on Dec. 8, 15,000 on Dec. 15 and 17,500 people on Dec. 22. Some of the banners carried by marchers had slogans such as: "We miss our country" and "Stop immigrants abusing our social welfare system." It is seen that PEGIDA's anti-Islamic and anti-immigration stance has spread across the nation. As rallies attract growing numbers of people, politicians as well as more than 5 million immigrants living in the country are becoming anxious.
PEGIDA is an anti-Islam movement that started with 300 people in Dresden, where immigrants account for just 2.5 percent of the population and Muslims numbering only 0.1 percent. In other words, the statistically insignificant number of Muslim immigrants in the city pales in comparison to those in other German cities. The movement asserts that it is "not against Islam, but against the Islamization of Europe," "not against immigrants coming from war-torn countries, but against economic migrants." PEGIDA picks out patriotic European Muslims and Islam as scapegoats for various political and social problems and legitimizes the rising xenophobia and discrimination against refugees.

PEGIDA is made up of a broad mix of far-right radicals, hooligans and desperate and excluded citizens. The 41-year-old leader of PEGIDA, Lutz Bachmann, has a criminal record for burglary, assault and a conviction for drug possession. Bachmann insists that he cannot be deemed a "racist," saying one of the witnesses at his wedding was Turkish. He says that they fight for the fatherland, which has been under the rule of Germans for centuries and that people take to the streets for this purpose.

There are also claims that Bachmann has worked for the German secret service. Bachmann plans to expand PEGIDA, which started in Dresden, to 14 more centers. In many German cities similar movements have begun with names formed by combining the first two letters of the city with the rest of the acronym - Legida in Leipzig, Bogida in Bonn and Dügida in Düsseldorf. It is feared that similar rallies may emerge in different European countries as well. PEGIDA members say that they are against preachers of hate and religious or political radicalism regardless of religious affiliation and that is why they march against parallel societies formed by immigrant communities that do not integrate with local communities by keeping their cultural norms. They see it as part of their right to maintain and protect Western Judeo-Christian culture.

Although PEGIDA is a movement that embodies the rising xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Germany, it neither sees itself as neo-Nazi nor uses neo-Nazi symbols or discourses
. Differently from neo-Nazis, they capitalize on a victimization narrative and accuse Muslims of taking away their culture and their jobs. They are against "radical Islamists," and demand a toughening of asylum and immigration laws. While they say they are not against Muslims but radical Islamists, they complain about the rights granted to refugees and asylum seekers. They demand the suspension of immigration into Germany and Europe. It can be said that PEGIDA has some aspects that may be associated with fascism, but it is too early to say with any certainty that it is moving in that direction. We can regard this movement as the resurgence of existing fascism, rather than the birth of a new fascism, because inactive racist movements may accelerate over time and naturally turn into fascism. For example, fascist tendencies in Germany have been interpreted for years as a desire to establish a nationalist and organic society that is interwoven with cultural ties. The term "das Volk" (the people, masses), which was used by the Nazis, suggests a racial union and a collective mission. During PEGIDA rallies, the concepts of "the people and fatherland" have come to the fore once again.

PEGIDA holds that the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP), which is usually described as a neo-Nazi organization and the far-right conservative Alternative for Germany Party (AFD) joined the protests, since they felt threatened. Alexander Hausler, an expert on far-right extremism in Düsseldorf, thinks that this new nationalism attracts people who could not adapt to the changes that have taken place over the last decade and who have lost hope and have begun to sympathize with far-right parties. Just as the Nazi regime made Jews the scapegoat for various crises and problems during the 1930s and '40s, today Muslims are perceived as the source of problems and society is mobilized through propaganda about the danger of Islamization.

Until now, PEGIDA has organized protests without resorting to violence against individuals. Since the movement is made of diverse groups, however, it is not possible to ensure that attacks on places of worship will not target individuals or groups in the future. PEGIDA marches are thought to be a factor behind the recent increase in attacks on mosques and immigrants. Although PEGIDA supporters say they are "not against immigrants or Islam, but extremists," participation of far-right extremists and neo-Nazis in demonstrations sparks a strong reaction. And systematic attacks on mosques by neo-Nazis continue. Most recently, the Turkish-Islamic Union's Süleymaniye Mosque in Dormagen city was attacked.. The perpetrators painted swastikas and wrote racist insults on mosque walls, such as "Down with Islam," "Long live Hitler, long live the NSU" - the National Socialist Underground is a far-right German terrorist group responsible for a series of murders of Turks, also known as the döner murders) - and, "You will be sent to concentration camps."


Stornierungen: Pegida hat Auswirkungen auf den Dresden-Tourismus

Beschädigen die Pegida-Demonstrationen die Marke Dresden? Hotels und Tourismusunternehmen berichten von täglichen Anfragen von Touristen. Dabei bleibt es inzwischen nicht mehr.

Auch in Deutschland hat der neue Terror nun konkrete Folgen. Ausländische Geheimdienste liefern Hinweise auf mögliche Attentate. Deutsche Sicherheitsbehörden nehmen die Warnungen ernst.
Berlin/Dresden (dpa) - Eine konkrete Terrordrohung von Islamisten gegen die Pegida-Bewegung hat eine beispiellose Reaktion deutscher Sicherheitsbehörden ausgelöst. Eineinhalb Wochen nach den Anschlägen von Paris verbot die Polizei in Dresden für diesen Montag alle Versammlungen unter freiem Himmel - und damit auch die für den Abend geplante Kundgebung der islamfeindlichen Pegida-Bewegung. Deren Mitbegründerin Kathrin Oertel sagte in der ARD, es gebe eine gezielte Drohung gegen Pegida-Organisator Lutz Bachmann. Die Gefahr sei nicht mehr nur abstrakt, sondern konkret, teilte Polizeipräsident Dieter Kroll mit.
Da die Islamisten-Drohung dpa-Informationen zufolge zeitlich nicht begrenzt ist, ist in den nächsten Tagen eine Diskussion über die Zukunft der Pegida-Demonstrationen zu erwarten. Mit dem Verbot der Kundgebungen am Montag wird ein Kernelement der Demokratie vorübergehend eingeschränkt - die Versammlungs- und Demonstrationsfreiheit.
In den vergangenen Tagen hatte es mehrere Warnmeldungen ausländischer Geheimdienste an deutsche Sicherheitsbehörden gegeben. Darin waren auch die Hauptbahnhöfe von Berlin und Dresden als mögliche Terrorziele genannt worden. Dort wurden die Sicherheitsvorkehrungen laut «Berliner Zeitung» verstärkt.
Bundesinnenminister Thomas de Maizière (CDU) hatte am Freitag erklärt, man unternehme alles, um die Bevölkerung wirksam zu schützen. «Die Lage ist ernst, es besteht Grund zur Sorge und Vorsorge, jedoch nicht zu Panik und Alarmismus», teilte er mit.
Die selbst ernannten «Patriotischen Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes» (Pegida) sagten kurz vor dem offiziellen Versammlungsverbot ihre für Montagabend geplante Kundgebung vor der Semperoper ab. Oertel sagte in der ARD-Sendung «Günther Jauch»: «Es wäre sicher aufgrund der Bedrohungslage für die Polizei nicht möglich gewesen, diese Veranstaltung abzusichern.» Hätte Pegida die Kundgebung nicht abgesagt, wäre sie mit Sicherheit wegen dieser Bedrohungslage von der Polizei verboten worden.
In der Polizei-Verfügung heißt es, Attentäter seien aufgerufen worden, sich unter die Pegida-Demonstranten zu mischen. Ziel sei es, «zeitnah einen Mord an einer Einzelperson des Organisationsteams der Pegida-Demonstrationen zu begehen». Dieser Aufruf ähnele einem über einen Twitter-Account gesendeten Tweet, in dem auf Arabisch die Pegida-Demonstration als «Feindin des Islams» bezeichnet werde.
Sicherheitskreise hatten der Deutschen Presse-Agentur am Wochenende im Grundsatz übereinstimmende Hinweise ausländischer Partner-Geheimdienste bestätigt, über die zunächst «Der Spiegel» berichtet hatte. Erste Hinweise gab es demnach bereits Anfang vergangener Woche. Im Laufe der Woche habe sich das Lagebild der Behörden verdichtet.
So wurden auch Kommunikationsinhalte namentlich bekannter internationaler Dschihadisten abgefangen und an die deutschen Behörden weitergeleitet. Darin seien mögliche Anschläge auf Pegida-Demonstrationen diskutiert worden, schrieb der «Spiegel». Den Ausschlag für das Dresdener Versammlungsverbot dürfte nach dpa-Informationen eine weitere, noch konkretere Warnmeldung vom Freitag gegeben haben.
Islamistische Terroristen hatten vor etwa eineinhalb Wochen in Paris bei Anschlägen 17 Menschen getötet. Die drei Attentäter starben bei Polizeieinsätzen.

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