Monday, December 15, 2014
PEGIDA - no end to grim surprises
Germans think their country is swamped with too many Muslim immigrants and refugees (dubbed as "criminal asylum seekers" and the "Islamization of Germany") after the wars in Iraq and Syria, both of which were/are financed and supported by European leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the southern German town of Vorra, three buildings prearranged for Muslim refugees were recently set on fire with swastikas and racist buzzwords. Reports say Germans bitterly oppose the establishment of IS in Iraq and Syria. But rightist fury is conveniently vented at those fleeing IS and the devastating Syrian war, not at Merkel nor her European counterparts who are squarely responsible for the situation. This has consistently been the problem with the European public - lack of sagacity and inability to read between lines.
PEGIDA is a far-right populist movement in Germany, staunchly anti-Islamic, demanding the expulsion of Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers. Starting only two months ago in October 2014, its leader Lutz Bachmann with a criminal record including burglary, drug dealing and two years in prison claims he is not racist. A zealously radical movement itself, PEGIDA is supposed to be "opposing religious extremism." It's still not clear what exactly is their definition of 'religious extremism.' What kind of extremism are Muslims in Germany supposed to be displaying that Germans find so disturbing? Wearing traditional clothes? Eating traditional food? The construction of a mosque? The occasion of Friday congregational prayers? Not being Christian? Their agitation remains mysterious.
In German, PEGIDA stands for "Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes" or "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West."
Merkel's government is desperately trying to send the message that this movement does not represent the majority. But that might not be too accurate. She's actually feeling quite challenged and helpless. According to a senior German police officer, these ruffians are losers in life venting their frustration on others and trying to find "scapegoats" for their own failures. There have also been leftist protests denouncing PEGIDA but much smaller in numbers. PEGIDA looks beyond the usual supremacist hullabaloo that's not going to quell anytime soon. The movement and its ideology appear to be spreading like wild fire and inspiring many. Yahoo mentions "PEGIDA, launched in October, has grown and spawned smaller copycat groups nationwide, provoking much soul-searching in a country haunted by its history of Nazi terror ...."
Frilled with slogans of Christian Crusaders, it's supported by various neo-Nazi groups and the 'Alternative for Deutschland Party' (AfD). "Deutschland" means Germany. AfD Party, with far-right views politically and socially, is a spunky one. It was established in 2013 after the financial crisis in Europe. Founded by a group of economic professors, it's an indicator that racism and extreme rightism in Germany have roots in academics as much as within skinheads and punks.
While Germany's far-right is largely against the political elites, that's no comforting feature under the circumstances; it's equally xenophobic and opposed to multi-culturism with one of its favorite slogans, "We are the people that helped bring down the Berlin Wall in 1989." The future of Germany's 4 million plus Muslims appears menacing at best. One can only pray and hope this formidable scenario doesn't erupt into another Bosnia or Kosovo.