By Lea Žigrić, Junge Liberale, Germany
Actually, I didn’t want to write about the PEGIDA protests. But an encounter I had this morning motivated to write a few lines anyway. For those of you that don’t live in Germany: PEGIDA is an abbreviation for “Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamisation Of The West”. They have been meeting every monday for a few weeks to go for a “protest walk” in the city of Dresden for a few weeks, attracting up to 18,000 protesters.
The only political parties supporting the protests are the right-wing protest party “Alternative für Deutschland” and the neo-nazi NPD. The protesters refuse to be called “nationalistic” or “racist”, instead claiming they were “concerned patriots” that are worried about the increasing influence of Islam in the daily life and about the loss of the German “Christian-Jewish heritage”. Well, there are few spots in the world where Jews left more marks than in Europe, but as I also remember nowhere as in Europe have been such cruel murders against Jews. So how can there be a Judeo-Christian West? But hey, let’s drop the subject.
Some leaders of the AfD (which received 9,7% of the votes in the Saxony regional election) were the first to salute the protesters. This was not very surprising as many of the PEGIDA utterances reflect the behavior of many AfD politicians. The feeling of being ignored by the “mainstream media” (the most famous PEGIDA slogan is “Lügenpresse” – “lying press”), being overrun by Muslim immigrants (only 0.4% of the Saxony population is Islamic) and the disdain of the established parties (“Altparteien” – “old parties”). The AfD populism is easy to unmask and not too different from other European populist movements. Like the short-lived populist parties in Germany before its rise, its focus is on crime, Europhobia, immigration, social security for German citizens (“We are not the welfare agency of the world”, a slogan previously used by the NPD). Their leader, Bernd Lucke, an economist-turned-politician, is struggling to keep obvious Nazis out of the party.
The come and go of right-wing populist parties and the success of the AfD in the European and Regional Elections suggests a deep mistrust towards change and foreigners. It’s now the turn for Germany’s established parties to discuss whether or not they want to discuss with the protesters. That’s why I want to tell you this story.
A citizen, working as a nurse and interested in politics, washes an old man. Because of his disease, he cannot move. She glimps at his newspaper with a report about the protests on its front page. The patient noticed it and began a passionate monologue about PEGIDA and their “justified” demands. Foreigners should stay in their home countries, because these underdeveloped countries needed their skills more than Germany. Rather sooner than later all women in Germany would be required to wear the hijab due to the rise of Islam, a cruel religion. The nurse listened patiently to his speech and asked him why does Islam disturb him. He answered that, that didn’t belong to Germany. To put it in a nutshell: Foreigners in Germany were bad, Islam worse and Muslim immigrants the worst. The nurse continued to wash the old man and asked him to take a look at her name badge. It read: Iva Zigric, my mother, born-and-bred foreigner.
Now always the same procedure happens also to me: Those who stirred up hatred minutes ago move nervously and try to backpedal: They weren’t talking about me or my family, but other foreigners. I’m completely different. Croatia is such a beautiful country with great towns like Dubrovnik and Split (with a horrible German accent) and nice islands with strange names (yes, i know, “Krk”, everybody knows), pretty beaches, friendly people, tasty food (cevapcici) and even tastier spirits.
Am I now a favored foreigner? A sort of foreigner Germans like to welcome, because they do not bother anyone and look similar?
I have never understood why our society is so hostile towards Islam. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, where my mother grew up, Christians and Muslims live in peaceful coexistence across generations. My (Roman-Catholic) cousins wish their friends on Facebook a Happy Eid Mubarakand they honour holidays of both religions.
So why do PEGIDA protesters claim the foreigners (except the favored one sorry) do not want to integrate and be part of the German society? I personally want to talk to those scared people and argue them into losing their fears towards everything that is new and foreign. We should not forget that there have been a lot of German companies who sent head-hunter down to Bosnia in the near of nurse schools to inform the about the possibility to work in Germany, so apparently those companies need those bad bad bad foreigners.
So let’s stop splitting up in first and second class foreigner, in favored foreigner and the “dangerous terror Muslim”.
Best wishes, Lea.