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Newsview :Rival German rallies over Islam
« on: January 07, 2015, 12:00:08 AM »



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Rival German rallies over Islam












The demonstrations have provoked a debate in Germany many say can no longer be ignored



Supporters and opponents of a group campaigning against what it sees as the "Islamisation" of Europe have held rival rallies across Germany.


There have been weekly protests by the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida) since October.


A record 18,000 people turned out on Monday at one rally in Dresden.


But counter demonstrations have sprung up and the group has been condemned by senior German politicians.


Thousands of people marched in Berlin, Cologne, Dresden and Stuttgart.


In Berlin, police said that some 5,000 counter-demonstrators blocked hundreds of Pegida supporters from marching along their planned route.


A total of 22,000 anti-Pegida demonstrators rallied in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg, according to the DPS news agency.


But in Dresden, police said that 18,000 people turned up for just one anti-immigration rally.  The counter-demonstration attracted 3,000 people.


  A supporter of the Pegida movement holds a flag in a demonstration on January 5, 2015Pegida supporters were outnumbered in the Berlin march

  Supporters of the Pegida movement, including some holding lanterns glowing in the colours of the German flag, gather for another of their weekly protests on January 5, 2015 in GermanySome 18,000 supporters of Pegida attended a rally in Dresden

Lights out

In Cologne, the authorities switched off the lights of the city's cathedral as a way of warning Pegida supporters they were supporting "extremists".


"We don't think of it as a protest, but we would like to make the many conservative Christians [who support Pegida] think about what they are doing," the dean of the cathedral, Norbert Feldhoff, told the BBC.


Only about 250 Pegida supporters showed up in Cologne, compared to thousands of counter-demonstrators.


  The lights of the Cologne Cathedral are switched off in protest at right-wing initiative Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident) in Cologne, Germany, 5 January 2015Cologne cathedral lights were switched off as part of a protest against the anti-Islam rallies


Much of the city centre was also plunged into darkness as lights were switched off at major buildings and bridges across the Rhine, according to the news agency DPA.


"Today, there is really a democratic sign being sent and a lot of people in Cologne are expressing their opinion," said Cologne mayor Juergen Roters.


"They want to stress that we here in Cologne do not want to have anything to do with right-wing extremists and xenophobic people."


In Dresden, carmaker Volkswagen said it was also keeping its manufacturing plant dark to show that the company "stands for an open, free and democratic society."


  A woman protesting against the anti-Islam party Pegida holds up a signCounter-protests have been opposing the group

  'AThe sign held by this Berlin man reads "No to Islamisation of Europe!"


German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked the movement in her new year speech, saying its leaders have "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts".


Pegida organiser Kathrin Oertel responded in a speech at the rally in Dresden. She said that there was "political repression" in Germany once again.


"Or how would you see it when we are insulted or called racists or Nazis openly by all the political mainstream parties and media for our justified criticism of Germany's asylum seeker policies and the non-existent immigration policy?"


German journalist Sigrun Rottman told the BBC that Pegida protesters were mixed but that the marches did include right-wing and racist groups.


She said it was important to note that Dresden, compared to other German cities, had very few immigrants, and even fewer Muslim residents.


Many supporters there felt "hard done-by" and unrepresented by mainstream politics and media, she added.


A poll of just over 1,000 people carried out by Germany's Stern magazine found one in eight Germans would join an anti-Islam march if Pegida organised one near their home.


Germany receives more refugees and asylum seekers than any other EU country. Many of those have come from war-torn Syria.




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