PEGIDA takes to the streets in Germany as Merkel promotes religious tolerance

Published March 24th, 2015 - 10:03 GMT

Supporters of the German anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement have staged separate demonstrations in the capital, Berlin, as well as in the eastern city of Dresden.

On Monday, followers of the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, gathered at Washingtonplatz square near the main train station in Berlin at 18:00 p.m. local time (1700 GMT) and marched throughout the city center.

The marchers waved German and Israeli flags, and carried a banner reading "Islam does not belong to Germany" in German. They also sang the opening verse of the Deutschlandlied (Song of Germany), which was appropriated by the Nazi Party during their time in power and now considered inappropriate to sing in Germany. The participants later held a small rally at Brandenburg Gate.

Supporters of the PEGIDA movement also staged a separate rally in Dresden on Monday. They called for the immediate deportation of all asylum seekers with criminal convictions, warning the "elites in Berlin" that they would not succeed in their objectives.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has lashed out at the anti-Islamic trend that is gaining momentum in Germany and other European counties following the recent terrorist attacks in France which left 17 people dead.

"We will not allow ourselves to be divided by those who, in the face of Islamist terror, place Muslims in Germany under general suspicion," Merkel said on March 18. 

"There must be no ostracism of Muslims, no sweeping suspicions.… As chancellor, I will come to the defense of Muslims in this country against that," she added. 

The PEGIDA movement began to launch its rallies in October and has managed to attract thousands of supporters across Germany since then.

There have been widespread counter-demonstrations across Germany and many other European countries. 

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