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Anti-Islam & pro-tolerance demonstrators take to German streets

 
Supporters of anti-immigration movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) hold flags during a demonstration in Dresden January 12, 2015. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)

Supporters of anti-immigration movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) hold flags during a demonstration in Dresden January 12, 2015. (Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch)

 

  Thousands of people participated in anti-Islamization rallies in  Germany on Monday, with many wearing black ribbons in  commemoration of those killed in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo  satirical magazine

A record 25,000 people joined an anti-Islamic march in Dresden on  Monday, AFP reported. The Dresden rally, one in a series of  weekly marches that have been taking place since October, was  organized by anti-immigration group Patriotic Europeans Against  the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA).

Sympathizers of German anti-immigration movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) attend their twelfth march in Dresden, eastern Germany on January 12, 2015. (AFP Photo/Robert Michael)

Sympathizers of German anti-immigration movement PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) attend their twelfth march in Dresden, eastern Germany on January 12, 2015. (AFP Photo/Robert Michael)

  Even before last week’s extremist attack on Charlie Hebdo,  anti-Muslim feeling in Germany had been growing.

  A poll published January 1 revealed 13 percent of Germans were  ready to attend an anti-Muslim march nearby, while 29 percent  believed that such marches were justified. The poll was done by  Forsa for Stern magazine and was based on opinions shared by  1,006 respondents.

READ MORE: Merkel lashes out at anti-Islamic  protests while 1 in 8 Germans would attend

  Ahead of Monday's rallies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel came  out against the anti-Muslim protesters during a news conference  with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, after both  participated in a massive march through Paris to honor the  victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

Former President Wulff said Islam belongs to Germany. That  is true. I also hold this opinion," Merkel said.

 

  She thus referred to comments made by former German President  Christian Wulff in 2010. That same year Merkel famously  pronounced the policy of multiculturalism in Germany dead.

  "And of course, the approach [to build] a multicultural  [society] and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other... has  failed, utterly failed," she told young members of the  Christian Democratic Union (CDU) at the time.

  Germany’s Nazi past has been among the reasons for the country’s  liberal asylum laws. As a result, the number of asylum seekers  has grown fourfold since 2012.

  PEGIDA is demanding a new immigration law that would see  immigrants forced to integrate and that would make sure Islamists  going to fight in Syria and Iraq never return to Germany.

 

  "We are getting more support each week," PEGIDA  co-founder Kathrin Oertel told Reuters. "We are against all  violence that is religiously motivated, whether Muslim or  Christian ... People have been confronted by it now and are  thinking about it more."

  Counter-protests against PEGIDA have also been massive throughout  Germany. In some German cities, anti-PEGIDA demonstrators have  reportedly outnumbered PEGIDA supporters.

READ MORE: Thousands protest ‘Nazism, racism’   amid huge anti-Islam rallies in Germany (VIDEO)

 

  German national news agency DPA reported that anti-PEGIDA rallies  saw over 8,000 activists assemble in Dresden, 30,000 in Leipzig,  20,000 in Munich, 17,000 in Hanover, 9,000 in Saarbruecken, 5,000  in Duesseldorf, 4,000 each in Berlin and Hamburg, and 2,000 in  Rostock.

  In Dresden, which drew Monday's biggest crowds, PEGIDA activists  and their rivals took part in an aggressive verbal exchange as  protesters traded lewd hand signals and banged on the security  fence set up to prevent scuffles. The rival demonstrators were  chased off by police before the situation could escalate further,  Ruptly reported.

 

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