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Thousands turn out to reject Pegida hate marches in Germany

Tens of thousands of people braved the elements in the eastern city of Dresden at the weekend to march in opposition to Islamophobia, calling for “open-mindedness and humanity.”

They gathered in front of the city’s Frauenkirche (Cathedral of our Dear Lady) to condemn sentiments of xenophobia and racism that have been evident across many German cities in recent weeks stirred up by rallies organised by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (Pegida).

After a minute’s silence to remember the lives lost in the Paris terrorist attacks, Dresden’s conservative Mayor Helma Orosz took to the stage to declare: “I’m not here because I’m against people who go to Pegida marches but because I don’t fear people with a different skin colour, customs or ways.

“We stand here not in protest or opposition but for all Dresden, for Saxony and for everyone who lives here,” she added.

“Regardless of whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim, we will not be separated by hate.”

Pegida’s weekly Monday evening demonstrations, which had grown to about 18,000 people before slipping back to 10,000 were dwarfed by the 35,000 marchers in Dresden.

The Islamophobic group wrote on its webpage after the Charlie Hebdo shooting that the “Islamists that Pegida has been warning about for 12 weeks showed in France that they are not capable of democracy but rather look to violence and death as an answer.”

About a dozen German Muslim organisations met in Cologne on Friday to sign a joint declaration against terrorism, sharply condemning the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

Ditib Turkish Islam Union secretary-general Bekir Alboga called the Paris murders “an attack on everyone’s freedom” and “an abuse of the religion of peace.”

Central Council of Muslims in Germany secretary-general Nurhan Soykan expressed her fears that the Paris bloodbath could fan the flames of far-right protests.

However, she stressed that she was also aware that there are people in society who stand up for Muslims.

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