Anti-migrant groups, headed by the Pegida movement, protested in Cologne after alleged sexual assaults having taken place on New Year’s Eve. There was violence at the rally which condemned Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migrant policy. Pro-migrant activists held a simultaneous counter-demonstration with hundreds of women’s right activists having rallied in the city.
Merkel showed compassion when she welcomed more than a million refugees and migrants into Germany in 2015. Anti-immigration campaigners have seized on the Cologneattacks as an example of what they see as the failure of the country’s migrant policy.
Similar attacks to those seen in Cologne were also reported in Hamburg and in Stuttgart on New Year’s Eve. In Bielefeld, hundreds of men tried to force their way into nightclubs.
Who are Pegida? It stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident’. They claim to be against Islamisation of Europe but in actuality this seems to translate into general Islamophobia. It was formed in Germany and seems to represent a group which the equivalent of in the UK would be the English Defence League. Patriotism seems to be another of its main aims and sadly this is largely communicated as a pro-white, anti-migrant stance.
Political scientist Werner J. Patzelt believes that politicians are “clueless” when it comes to dealing with Pegida. Political philosopher Jürgen Manemann considers Pegida an “antipolitical movement”. He elaborates by saying that “political action serves the common good and thus requires politicians to voice especially the interests of minorities. While politics was based on pluralism, Pegida is in fact anti-pluralistic and thus anti-political”.
Political scientist Gesine said in “the first half of the 20th century, it was the Jewish minority who were imputed with plans for world domination. Today, it is the Muslim minority who is accused of plotting an Islamisation of Europe.” Political theorist Wolfgang Jäger considers Pegida “a part of increasingly right-wing populist tendencies in Europe… [with] their Islamophobia possibly being the heir to widespread antisemitism.”
Pegida have some genuine concerns which should be addressed – i.e. the sexual attacks which took place on New Year’s Eve – but these concerns are not limited to Pegida. Pegida’s tactic has been to confuse the terms Islam, Islamism and Islamisation in the minds of their followers. Frankly, it is the same kind of mindset that was seen at the Nuremberg rallies. The counter to this mindset must be a genuine response rather than heavy handed police presence or slinking away and hoping the problem will disappear. Drag these people into the centre of the political ring and have a democratic debate with them and then we will see their arguments falter.
Image credit: flickr.com/a_peach