Germany is tackling a growing grassroots anti-Islam movement head on.
Following Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sharp rebuke to the movement’s supporters in a televised holiday broadcast, two former chancellors, Gerhard Schröder and Helmut Schmidt, on Tuesday joined a group of 80 prominent citizens in an unusual public appeal to Germans to reject the anti-immigrant protests.
It’s a clear sign the German political and business establishment are alarmed at the activities of Pegida, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, which have organized weekly demos in Dresden and other cities targeting immigrants.
A growing counter-movement is gathering pace, with thousands of people taking to the streets to oppose xenophobia and call for tolerance and openness.
On Monday night landmarks in two German cities were even plunged into darkness to mark opposition to the Islamophobes.