French cartoonists oppose the PEGIDA-inspired far-right movement in a pamphlet signed by 11 cartoonists refusing support for anti-Islam movements across Europe
Amid growing hatred toward Muslims, further fuelled by the deadly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, 11 French cartoonists signed a pamphlet denouncing anti-Islam movements organized by the far-right Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA). "We reject PEGIDA's attempt to co-opt the commemoration of our colleagues," the statement read, as reported by DPA. "We, the French and francophone cartoonists, are horrified over the murder of our friends."
The statement also said that "we are nauseated that right-wing forces are attempting to use this for their own ends."
Regarding the weekly anti-Islam rallies in Germany, the French cartoonist called on people to side with open-mindedness and tolerance in defiance of growing Islamophobic populism promoted by far-right groups like PEGIDA. The anti-Islam movements have been associated with neo-Nazi violence against foreigners, including German Muslims and immigrants. The French cartoonists said that they do not want to be associated with far-right populist extremism, which they have long rejected in their work.
Charlie Hebdo, a weekly French magazine well-known for its biting satirical attacks on political and religious leaders was victim to a violent attack on Jan. 7 that left 12 dead. The French magazine has been heavily criticized after depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which is strictly prohibited in Islam, and the provocative cartoons printed in the French weekly have made the magazine a target for terrorist attacks. The magazine's editor-in-chief, Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb, who was killed in the massacre, was reportedly living under police protection after receiving death threats.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Paris massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, there has been a growing concern about a possible backlash against Muslims living in Europe. The weekly PEGIDA protests are being closely followed and have been attracting an increasing number of supporters. The anti-Islam protests organized by far-right groups took place across German cities on Monday including Hanover and Kassel. The Dresden-based far-right PEGIDA has found sympathizers across Europe as some have reported that Islamophobia in Europe is on the rise. The movement has gained attention recently while drawing 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 far-right populist groups in Dresden. The weekly marches that started with nearly 500 demonstrators have grown much larger with support from disenchanted Germans who oppose the perceived Islamization of their country. Anti-Islam demonstrations modeled on the recent PEGIDA protests are also being planned in other European cities like Vienna and Oslo. It is expected that the protests will spread to small countries like Denmark and large ones like Britain and Spain as the presence of a significant number of Muslims could fuel similar sentiments in these countries.