Consider Who You Are Marching With

Consider Who You Are Marching With

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Serving a “rebellion of the decent” against what they deem "a symbol of darkness," Germany's landmark Cologne Cathedral will shut off its lights to protest the latest march by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, a right-wing, anti-Muslim movement that's seen a stunning rise across Europe and particularly in Germany, which is historically prone to that sort of thing. PEGIDA stole its slogan, "We Are the People," from anti-Berlin Wall demonstrations.

PEGIDA's first rally in October drew only a couple hundred people; its most recent last month in Dresden was attended by a record 17,000 people waving German flags and urging immigrants to go home. Followers say they are not Nazis but patriots who worry about the "watering-down" of their Christian culture and faith, which is evidently why they sang Christmas carols. Their leader is a 41-year-old ex-con and former sausage seller.

PEGIDA and other copy-cat anti-immigration groups are surging in Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, which has become the continent’s top destination for asylum seekers even as it suffers through economic austerity. A recent poll found one in eight Germans would join an anti-Muslim march if one was organized in their town. Supporters don't seem to understand that the groups' message is not just racist, xenophobic, un-Christian and divisive, but dumb: Muslim refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries are in fact often fleeing radical Islam. Economic leader also stress they are needed in an economy where they do jobs many native Germans don't want to do.

Admirably, other Germans are speaking up. There are several social media campaigns against the movement, including a petition that has drawn 250,000 signatures. Chancellor Angela Merkel used her New Year's message to caution against "rabble-rousers," urging Germans, "Do  not follow those who... have prejudice, coldness and hatred in their hearts.” The massive rally in Dresden, held in front of the opera house, drew counter-protesters marching with “Dresden Nazi-Free” signs and prompted the building's managers to turn off the lights and fly flags outside that read, “Open your eyes”, “Open your hearts”, “Open doors.” And the dean of the Cologne Cathedral, announcing its decision to follow their example next week, explained, “By switching off the floodlighting we want to make those on the march stop and think. It is a challenge: consider who you are marching alongside." They could add: Consider who marched before you.

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