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Organizers Of Anti-Islam Rally In Germany Commemorate Paris Attack

A protester in Dresden, Germany, holds a poster Monday showing Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf during a rally organized by PEGIDA, a group that is against what it calls the "Islamization of Europe."
Jens Meyer AP
A protester in Dresden, Germany, holds a poster Monday showing Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf during a rally organized by PEGIDA, a group that is against what it calls the "Islamization of Europe."

About 25,000 demonstrators today marched in Dresden, Germany, to protest against what they see as the "Islamization of Europe," and held a moment of silence in solidarity with the victims of last week's deadly attack by Islamists on a French satirical magazine.

"The terrible acts of Paris are further proof that PEGIDA is needed," said Lutz Bachmann, one of the organizers of today's rally in Dresden, according to The Associated Press.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports the marchers in Dresden were confronted today by other protesters who oppose their anti-immigrant message.

As we have previously reported, a group calling itself PEGIDA — Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West — has protested since October against Germany's asylum and immigration policies, which it views as lax. Previous protest organized by the group in Dresden drew up to 18,000 people. But attempts to replicate that turnout elsewhere have been met with counterprotests – and strong words from Germany's political and cultural elite.

In her New Year's Day speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel went as far as to urge her fellow Germans to "not follow people who organize these, for their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice, and even hate."

On Tuesday, Merkel is scheduled to attend a vigil organized by Muslims in Berlin to remember those killed in last week's Paris attack.

But Reuters reports that despite the opposition to PEGIDA, the group's protest today was larger than previous ones in the city.

"We are getting more support each week," co-founder Kathrin Oertel told the news agency. "We are against all violence that is religiously motivated whether Muslim or Christian ... People have been confronted by it now and are thinking about it more."

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