A record 25,000 protesters joined an anti-Islam march on Monday in the city of Dresden, Germany stating their stance was justified by the jihadist attacks that rocked Paris last week.
This was the 12th march organised by the protest group, Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) since October. The demonstrators carried banners with the names of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. According to the city police, the number of people joining such protests has surged from just 350 on 20 October to 18,000 on 5 January, and now 25,000 on Monday.
However, the march by anti-Islam protesters was countered by 100,000 pro-tolerance supporters, who called for nationwide tolerance.
Senior German politicians including Chancellor Angela Merkel have requested people not to join hands with PEGIDA and take part in its anti-Islam rallies, which would only add to the existing disturbance in the region. Earlier, Merkel had stressed that "Islam belongs to Germany" and announced that she, along with other cabinet ministers, would be participating in an anti-extremism Muslim community rally in Berlin, on Tuesday.
However, these efforts do not seem to deter PEGIDA. In its Facebook page, the group said that citizens need to "wake from their slumber" and recognise the "danger in the Islamic ideology." "Stop the radical Salfists' Islamization," it urged, according to CNN. "As a society, we should give people the chance to integrate, but we should not allow ourselves to be Islamized thereby losing our freedom and democracy!"
Critics believe that the protesters are taking advantage of the attacks in Paris to attract supporters and provoke them against refugees and foreigners. Merkel said that PEGIDA loyalists are people who have "hatred in their hearts".
The alarming detail here is that PEGIDA's influence has spread abroad as well and as many as 200 people staged an anti-Islam protest in Oslo. That is not all, activists have also called for similar protests against "Islamisation" in Switzerland and Austria.