SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Agency) – The resignation of the second leader of German anti-Islam group PEGIDA in a week has been widely seen as a blow to the group, who lost its supporters as quick as it gained them.
“I think that these demonstrations are probably past their best,” German Vice Chancellor and Social Democrats (SPD) chairman Sigmar Gabriel told German television broadcaster ZDF, Deutsche Welle reported on Thursday, January 29.
It was probably “a blessing for Dresden” that the movement and its organizers have disassembled themselves, he added.
The anti-Islam movement looked in disarray on Wednesday after the losing its second leader in a week when Kathrin Oertel who resigned suddenly.
Oertel, a 37-year-old mother-of-three became PEGIDA’s national figurehead after founder Lutz Bachmann resigned a week ago for posing as Hitler.
The Deutsche Welle said that resignation amounted to five board member of Pegida who stepped down over Bachmann’s Hitler impersonation.
The crises came as Bachmann wanted to remain on the organization team, according to the movement’s deputy leader, Rene Jahn.
German tabloid daily “Bild” reported Jahn as saying that he, like Oertel and three other PEGIDA members, had stepped down from his position as he “did not want to have anything to do with these Nazi things and right-wing comments.”
The organization also cancelled its forthcoming rally in Dresden, set for next Monday.
Yet, PEGIDA said Oertel had quit “due to the massive hostility, threats and career disadvantages,” Reuters reported.
“Even the strongest of women has to take time out when at night photographers and other strange figures are sneaking around outside her house,” it added.
Germany is believed to be home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. Turks make up an estimated two thirds of the Muslim minority.
Germans have grown hostile to the Muslim presence recently, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
Since October, the group “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident” or PEGIDA has been holding weekly marches against Muslims and immigrants.
Pegida drew a record 25,000 marchers to its 12th rally earlier in January in Dresden where its flag-waving members held a minute’s silence for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last week.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned of the damage that Pegida’s “xenophobic and racist slogans and placards” were having on Germany’s image abroad.
One slogan, “lying press”, is seen as harking back to the Nazi era. It was used by Adolf Hitler in 1922 and later by his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
The anti-Islam protests have been condemned by Ulrich Grillo, the president of the German Federation of Industry, for undermining the country’s interests and values.
Offering support for the Muslim community, German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a vigil for tolerance in Berlin two weeks ago, in a clear message against rising anti-Islam, far-right group Pegida.
Late in December,2014, Merkel urged people in her New Year’s speech to help refugees fleeing conflicts, telling them to turn their backs to the “racist”, “full of hatred” anti-Muslim movement.