A grassroots anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant movement is continuing to move across Europe in wake of the terror attacks that hit Paris last week.
A crowd of nearly 25,000 attended an anti-Muslim rally in Dresden on Monday. For the last several months, the German group Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or PEGIDA, has been holding the demonstrations, calling for stricter controls on asylum rules and tighter immigration policies.
Germany, along with northern European countries, is experiencing massive influxes of migrants from conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa. Vast numbers of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and others caught up in war, persecution and poverty are all trying to settle in wealthier European countries to begin new lives.
But as some European countries struggle with youth unemployment and sluggish economies, tensions rise.
The PEGIDA rallies have been gaining ground for weeks and now German leaders fear they will gain further steam after the Paris terror attacks took the lives of 17 people and the three assailants who carried out the murders.
German President Joachim Gauck attended a vigil on Tuesday, organized by Muslim groups, for the Paris victims, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He pleaded for tolerance. German leaders have vehemently condemned the rise of groups like PEGIDA and are struggling to control and squash the movement.
“Immigration makes Germany more multi-faceted — religiously, culturally and mentally. We stand against any form of demonization or exclusion,” Gauck said, reported Bloomberg.
In France, where French-born brothers who claim to have links to Al Qaeda in Yemen carried out a massacre of 12 at the Charlie Hebdo satirical news magazine — and an associate of theirs was responsible for the murder of four Jewish men at a Kosher supermarket — Muslims have felt a growing backlash.
Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, told The Associated Press that two days after the shootings at Charlie Hebdo, 16 places of worship around France were attacked by firebombs, gunshots or pig’s heads — an insult to those who don’t eat pork.
Far-right groups across Europe have also seized the Paris attacks to further their anti-immigrant causes. In France shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Le Pen called for the reinstitution of the death penalty and tougher rules to combat Islamic fundamentalism.
France has deployed an unprecedented number of soldiers and police, nearly 15,000, to protect sensitive areas across the country along with Jewish schools and synagogues.