|Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes|
|applied for nonprofit organization status|
|www .pegida .de|
Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West[note 1] (German: Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes), acronymically PEGIDA and Pegida, is a far rightanti-immigrantGerman organization based in Dresden. Since October 2014 it has been organizing public demonstrations, aimed at the German government, against what it claims to be the "Islamization" of the Western world. Its founder and leader Lutz Bachmann resigned after a photograph of him dressed as Adolf Hitler surfaced. The organization is anti-Muslim and anti-EU, and pro-Putin. It is considered a successor of the German Defence League and thus the English Defence League.
Pegida was founded in October 2014 by Lutz Bachmann, who runs a public relations agency in Dresden. Bachmann's impetus for starting Pegida was witnessing a rally by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) on 10 October in Dresden, which he posted the same day on YouTube. The next day he founded a Facebook group called Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes ("Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the Occident") which initially was mainly directed against arms shipments to the PKK.
A few days earlier, on 7 October, a group of Muslims assumed to be Salafists had violently attacked PKK supporters who were gathering after a demonstration against the Islamic State. The same day Yazidis and Muslim Chechens had violently clashed in Celle. On October 26, of 5000 protesters, "at least 400 right-wing extremists went on a rampage in downtown Cologne during a demonstration" by "Hooligans Against Salafists".
The first demonstration on 20 October 2014 drew only a handful of people. In the following days, the movement began drawing public attention and subsequently its weekly Monday demonstrations started to attract larger numbers of people. Among 7,500 participants on December 1, the police counted 80 to 120 hooligans. The demonstrations grew to 10,000 people on December 8, 2014.
During weekly demonstrations, Pegida supporters have carried banners with slogans including "For the preservation of our culture", "Against religious fanaticism, against any kind of radicalism, together without violence" and "Against religious wars on German soil". or "Peace with Russia- No war in Europe ever again", "We are emancipated citizens and no slaves"
On 19 December 2014, PEGIDA e.V. was legally registered in Dresden under register ID VR 7750 with Bachmann being chair, Rene Jahn vice-chair and Kathrin Oertel the treasurer. Pegida also formally applied for the status as a nonprofit organization.
Pegida has spawned a number of smaller clones across Germany, including Legida in Leipzig, Dagida in Darmstadt and Fragida in Frankfurt. After some internal disputes, representatives of Pegida NRW, an affiliate aiming to operate in the federal state of North Rhine Westphalia, distanced itself from the Bogida, Dügida and Kögida clones in Bonn, Düsseldorf and Cologne, which were said to be taken over by members of the openly xenophobic right-wing splinter party Pro NRW, including Melanie Dittmer, who subsequently was replaced as media representative of Pegida NRW by Sebastian Nobile, a member of the German Defence League, another anti-Islamist organization modeled after the English Defence League.
While the demonstration on 29 December was cancelled by the organizers, the movement continued to draw large numbers of participants in early January. After the Charlie Hebdo shooting on 7 January in Paris, politicians including German ministers Thomas de Maiziere and Heiko Maas, warned Pegida against misusing the attack on Charlie Hebdo for its own political means. On Saturday, 10 January, some 35,000 anti-Pegida protesters came together to mourn the victims of Paris, holding a minute's silence in front of the Frauenkirche.
On January 12 Pegida organizers exercised their right to do the same in front of a record audience of some 25.000 participants. Facing growing opposition by anti-Pegida protesters, both in Dresden and Leipzig, main organizer Bachmann declared the six key aims of Pegida, which include calls for selective immigration and generally stricter law and order politics but also included anti-EU sentiments and calls for a reconciliation with Russia. In the evening of January 12, Khaled Idris Bahray, a young immigrant from Eritrea, was fatally stabbed dead with a knife in Dresden. The perpetrator and circumstances remained under investigation. Pegida's main organizers outright rejected any possible Pegida connection with the murder. International media correspondents described an "atmosphere of hatred and resentment" in Dresden and published social media comments by Pegida-sympathizers expressing disdain for the dead Eritrean.
Dresden police did not permit the demonstration on 19 January, because of a concrete threat against a member of Pegida's leadership, that resembled an Arabic-language Tweet describing Pegida as an "enemy of Islam". Pegida cancelled its 13th demonstration and wrote on its Facebook page that there was a concrete threat against a leadership member and "his execution was commanded through ISIS terrorists".
On 21 January 2015, Pegida-founder Bachmann resigned from all his responsibilities after coming under fire for a number of Facebook posts. Excerpts from a closed Facebook conversation incriminated Bachmann as having designated immigrants as "cattle", "scumbags" and "trash". He was also quoted commenting that extra security was needed at the welfare office "to protect employees from the animals". A self-portrait of Bachmann deliberately posing as a reincarnation of Adolf Hitler, titled "He's back!", went viral in social media and was printed on title pages worldwide. On another occasion, Bachmann had posted a photo of a man wearing the uniform of the US white supremacist organisation Ku Klux Klan accompagnied by the slogan: "Three Ks a day keeps the minorities away."
While the Dresden state prosecutors opened an investigation for suspected Volksverhetzung ("incitement to popular hatred"), deputy chancellorSigmar Gabriel said the real face of PEGIDA had been exposed: "Anyone who puts on a Hitler disguise is either an idiot or a Nazi. People should think carefully about running after a Pied Piper like this."
At the beginning of December 2014, Pegida published an undated and anonymous one-page manifesto of 19 bulleted position statements.
At the 10th of January a new version of the position paper retained only the first 14 points, omitting the last 5.
Pegida's specific demands are unclear, largely because Pegida has refused to dialogue, calling the press a politically correct conspiracy. Demonstrators have been chanting "Lügenpresse" (liar press) a term which had surfaced during World War I and was used in Nazi propaganda. The use of "Lügenpresse" was so offensive to be picked as un-word of the year (German: "Unwort des Jahres") for 2014: This is a term chosen by a German panel of linguists every year as most offensive, and a major news item in Germany.
According to Frank Richter, director of Saxony’s state office for political education, Pegida is "a mixed group—known figures from the National Democratic Party of Germany, soccer hooligans, but also a sizable number of ordinary citizens." Werner Schiffauer, director of the Migration Council has pointed out that the movement is strongest where people have hardly any experience with foreigners, and among “easterners who never really arrived in the Federal Republic and who now feel they have no voice.”
In December, Gordian Meyer-Plath, president of the Landesamt für Verfassungsschutz said that initial doubts that PEGIDA might tie in with the riots staged by Hogesa earlier in Cologne did not substantiate, so the movement wasn't put under official surveillance status. He also said there were no indications that the organizers were embracing right-wingers: "It doesn't seem to be scam that Pegida wants to distance itself from the right." An assessment contested by the weekly Zeit who researched the self-perceived idological proximity of Pegida organizer Siegfried Däbritz to the German Defence League or the so-called Identitarian movement. In a Tagesspiegel interview on 19 January Meyer-Plath reaffirmed that the participant spectrum was very diverse and that there were no evidence of radicalization.
German tabloid newspaper Bild launched a petition against Pegida, including former Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder, as well as actress Karoline Herfurth and former footballer Oliver Bierhoff.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticized Pegida, saying that while everyone had the right to voice their opinion freely, there was no place in Germany for agitation against immigrants, later adding that the leaders of Pegida "have prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts.” The Federal Minister of the InteriorThomas de Maizière said that among the participants of the mass rallies were many ordinary people who expressed their concerns about the challenges of today's society.Bernd Lucke, the leader of the political party Alternative for Germany, considered most of the positions of Pegida to be legitimate. According to Lucke, the people taking part in these demonstrations did not feel that their concerns were being understood by politicians. Similarly, the Dresden city council fraction of the Alternative for Germany welcomed Pegida's weekly "walks".
Josef Schuster, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, voiced his opposition to the group, saying that the possibility of an Islamic conquest of Germany would be as "absurd" as a resurrection of the Nazi regime. Pegida have also been criticized by Lutheran clergy, including Bishop of Hamburg Kirsten Fehrs.
Bachmann's credibility as a leader has been criticized because he has numerous criminal convictions, including "16 burglaries, driving drunk or without a license and even dealing in cocaine". In 1998 he fled to South Africa to avoid German justice, but was finally extradited and served his 2-year jail sentence.
Commentators have attributed the success of Pegida to widespread dissatisfaction with European immigration policies amidst an increasing alienation toward the political elites and the mainstream media. A poll of 1,006 people by Forsa Institute for the German magazine Stern found 13 percent would attend an anti-Muslim march nearby and that 29 percent believed that the marches were justified because Islam was having such an influence on life in Germany. A poll by the Spiegel found a similar result, 34 percent of Germans agreeing with Pegida protestors in that the influence of Islam in Germany is growing.
in November 2014, Saxony's minister of interior Markus Ulbig (CDU) claimed that foreign criminals stay in Germany too long. He announced the creation of a special police unit to deal with criminal immigrants in Dresden and the rest of Saxony, including a section of the Spezialeinsatzkommando (SWAT Team) trained to enter buildings occupied by armed terrorists. Investigators and specialists in criminal and immigrant law would collaborate to process foreign criminals in the criminal justice system, and prevent those not eligible for asylum from obtaining the right to stay in Germany. Ulbig admitted that there were a number of criminal acts committed by immigrants near the homes for asylum-seekers, but they were a minority and should not be allowed to undermine the solidarity with the great majority of law-abiding refugees. He said police worked on criminal immigrant cases too slowly.