If anti-Semitism in Germany can be defeated with reason and perseverance, as mostly it has been, so can Islamophobia and its adherents.
Writing for Al Jazeera, Paul Hockenos says that recent protests in cities across Germany represent a unified force beyond a blind hatred for Islam and Muslims. Hockenos, a Berlin-based journalist who has covered the transformations of the European Union for more than 25 years, writes that it is still not clear exactly whether PEGIDA — the group behind the protests — is a “bona fide social movement” on the rise or a “populist flash mob” set to fade away. But, he writes, “the rise of Islamophobia has enormous consequences for the quality of democracy in Europe, especially at a time when there are more migrants than ever fleeing conflicts and counting on Europe to extend a hand.”
The protests in Dresden have been the biggest anti-Muslim rallies anywhere in Europe, with as many as 17,500 turning out at one event last week. Hockenos writes that these actions are cause for concern, but not in the ways many people would suspect:
“Germany’s protests are deeply worrying, though not because there’s a possibility of these forces coming to power, as the Nazis did in the 1930s or far-right parties have in coalition governments elsewhere in Europe. These currents do not appeal to anything close to a majority of Germans, and mainstream parties are unwilling to cooperate with them.
“But the demonstrations reveal a tenacious illiberal strain in Germany — and across the rest of Europe — that, much like anti-Semitism in the past, employs rigorous scapegoating and fear of the other, in this case Muslim immigrants, to express legitimate concerns over issues such as international financial crises, the lost or threatened social status of the middle classes, unemployment and violent crime. And now, in contrast to just a year ago, there’s a populist party in Germany that is tapping this current, making its way into regional parliaments in one vote after another, with about 10 percent of the vote.”
Hockenos says that despite the large demonstrations, Germany can look to its own history as a source of hopefulness:
“While the real fanatics are lost to rational discourse, many of the young people and ordinary citizens among them are surely open to logic. If anti-Semitism in Germany can be defeated with reason and perseverance, as mostly it has been, so can Islamophobia and its adherents.”