Dresden, Germany — The founder of German anti-Islam movement, Pegida, has been hit with a €9,600 ($11,000) fine for inciting racial hatred. Lutz Bachmann narrowly escaped jail but was ordered to pay the sum after he made a Facebook post branding refugees “cattle,” “scum,” and “trash.” A Dresden court ruled Bachmann’s posts constituted racial incitement and stoked hatred against refugees on a public forum.
Bachmann’s comments were posted in September, a couple of months before the first Pegida march in Dresden. The movement leader later stepped down after a picture of himself as Hitler with the caption, “He’s Back” went viral. In response to the photo, which he claimed was taken at the hairdresser’s for the publication of the satirical audiobook, He’s Back, he said, “You need to be able to joke about yourself now and then.”
Far-right group, Pegida, which stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West,” has been organising regular protests against the German government’s refugee policy since 2014. At one point, their rallies drew thousands in cities across Europe, but numbers have since dwindled and tend to be outnumbered by counter-protesters. In January, Bachmann, a 43-year-old trained chef, posted a picture of himself wearing a t-shirt saying “Rapefugees not welcome” — the slogan used at Pegida’s January protest in Cologne.
Without a doubt, the global migration crisis has fuelled a surge in support for far-right groups across the continent. That said, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and racist rhetoric is no longer confined to white supremacist thugs on the march — and far-right parties have gained ground in local elections. From Greece toAustria and France to Switzerland, the far-right has sneaked into the mainstream in jackets and ties.
At the same time, members of the far-right bloc within the European parliament formed a coalition last year called the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF). Under the leadership of France’s National Front and the Dutch PVV party, the party’s interests are sovereignty, democracy, freedom, and ending mass immigration.
In Germany, the terrifying swing to the extreme right has so far prompted 1,000 attacks on accommodation for asylum seekers. The country has also been accused of having a ‘Donald Trump moment’ after the chairwoman of the Alternative for Germany party (AfP) called for the use of firearms to stem the influx of immigrants.
Considering the current climate, it’s little surprise this fertile ground is propagating hate groups like Pegida. Although the German group claims it is not a racist organisation, many see support for the movement as a dangerous blast from the country’s troubled past. Even the country’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has condemnedit as xenophobic and racist, urging people not to join as members have “coldness, prejudice and hatred in their hearts.”
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