Germany's new far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has recently been on the rise in German politics, along with a general anti-Islam populism in the country's political landscape promoting a far-right shift in some German politics.
The anti-Islam movement, which holds support in several German cities, but primarily in the eastern city of Dresden, has displayed a view of Islam as a major threat more than ever, representing far-right groups and political parties. According to a recent poll conducted by Forsa and released on January 7, the AfD receives five percent of the vote.
The AfD has a Eurosceptic and an anti-Eurozone platform. The party won its first seats in a Saxony state parliament in regional legislative elections held in late August 2014, when anti-immigration issues were added to the party's agenda. The party also called for a referendum to stop the further building of mosques with minarets in Saxony.
To combat the growing far-right populism, 80 prominent German leaders and celebrities condemned the rising fear of Others in German society, and put their names to a petition against the anti-Islamist Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) by the German tabloid newspaper Bild saying that Islamophobic demonstrations widen the rift in German society. Thousands of participants in Monday's counter-demonstrations showed up to oppose far-right extremism. The counter-demonstrations took place in several German cities, including Cologne, Stuttgart, Berlin and Dresden, with considerably high numbers of participants.
The U.N. urged demonstrators to promote tolerance and acceptance in the country and end the anti-Islam rallies. "The Secretary-General has spoken repeatedly against what we have seen as a rise in extremism in different parts of Europe. His message is one of tolerance and one of acceptance," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Dresden-based far-right PEGIDA has lately gained attention as it has drawn support from other far-right groups and ordinary citizens. Far-right anti-Muslim groups have become more prominent in Germany like the PEGIDA-inspired KOEGIDA in Cologne, and HAGIDA in Hamburg.
Since October 2014, Germany has witnessed several anti-Islam demonstrations and racially-motivated attacks organized by far-right extremist groups. Since then, there have been weekly anti-Islam rallies organized by the far-right populist group in Dresden. The weekly marches started with nearly 500 demonstrators to protest the rising number of immigrants. However, the marches have grown much larger with growing support from disenchanted Germans who opposes the "Islamization" of their country, with the rise in number of immigrants seeking shelter.
Some 18,000 far-right supporters gathered in the street of Dresden on Monday, the largest number so far. Taking other protests held in other German cities into account, total numbers of people who show xenophobia directed most viciously at the Muslim community reached 22,000. Considering this latest act of vandalism, recent mosque attacks have shown that Muslim's lives have been threatened.