Is Islam part of Europe?
Islam is part of Europe

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for people not to follow the Pegida movement as those are people with “hatred in their hearts” and supported former German president Wulff’s statement that Islam is part of Germany. Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the Social Democrats also commented on Pegida issue: "Quite clearly. Whether you like it or not, people have a democratic right to be right-wing or nationalist. People also have a right to spread stupid ideas, such as the notion that Germany is being Islamicised." This political debate resembles somewhat the international debate on freedom of expression following the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Although, growing scepticism towards immigration and Islamophobia is not just present in Germany. Already in January Pegida rallies had reached from Copenhagen until Prague. In Austria FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache stated: “I say Islam does not belong to Austria, neither culturally nor historically”. This was a reaction on a controversial law that Austrian parliament passed last week, banning funding of some Muslim clergy such as by Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The law is meant to create and “Austrian-style Islam” but has led to tensions with local Muslims.

Lutz Bachmann has started Pegida in Dresden via Facebook and it is through Facebook that it reaches the rest of Europe. The Pegida UK Facebook page reached over 18 000 “likes”, Pegida Sweden over 9 000, and the other groups usually between 3 000 and 4 000. Similarly as in Germany, the spread of Pegida in Europe met more demonstrators against the rallies than supporters. Last week the Newcastle rally saw 400 people marching for Pegida, while 2 000 took to the streets to demonstrate against the movement. Following the rally Pegida England stated in their Facebook group that “the media and the counter protest branded us a ‘hate’ campaign”. They also try to explain that their position is for integration and not racism but they stand against “the radical Islamists who believe all non-believers should die”. The Pegida rally and the “Newcastle Unites” demonstration were mainly marked by violence, including four arrests. It is the first time that Pegida makes headlines with violent clashes during the rallies, as Pegida has been carefully established as a clearly non-violent movement.

Pegida has failed in several aspects. Its aim has gotten lost as leaders of Pegida groups in Europe and politicians involved at the movement send mixed signals. The spread of the movement has failed, meeting a larger group taking to the streets against Pegida and pro-multiculturalism and tolerance wherever they go. The movement gets attention from all over the world, provoking debates on the preservation of European culture amid globalisation and on the threat of radical Islamism, especially after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. It shows political involvement and interest from citizens all over Europe. Integration and Islam have become topics that everyone feels concerned with: clearly, today Islam is part of Europe.