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How Pegida uses social insecurity


The Pegida demonstrations in Dresden have attracted a lot of international media attention and raised considerable concerns about social peace inside Germany. Many people simply cannot understand why Pegida are warning about a so-called Islamisation of the West in a state, Saxony, with so few Muslims; Muslims make up only around 5% of the entire population of the federal republic anyway. Many observers fail to understand why so many people joined the demonstrations (which are now ebbing away) – with, moreover, a substantial number of citizens “from the middle layers of society” alongside the notorious right-wing extremists.


Most commentators share the view that there’s no risk of an “Islamisation of the West”, that the reasons behind or motives of the demonstrations cannot therefore be sourced to their stated goals but that they do point to genuine anxieties that need to be addressed. How does all of this fit together?


This is not that hard to grasp because, over the decades, we’ve managed to assemble a rich fund of pieces of historical evidence about and numerous scientific analyses of such fears – in Germany, Europe and internationally. The analytical field of study is research into prejudice. Going by the example of the horrendous experience of the murder of Jews, of Nazism and anti-semitism, we’ve known a lot about prejudice and resentment for a long time and should be able to apply this knowledge to what’s going on now.


These pertinent researches have overwhelmingly shown that the causes of prejudice, often overlain with aggressive resentments, do not lie with religious, cultural or ethnic minorities but in the social and psychic sensitivities of people harbouring such prejudices. It’s been known for decades that anti-semitism does not rest upon the Jews but is especially strong in areas where there are few or even no Jews (any longer!). This is true too for xenophobia and, equally, for hatred of Muslims or Islam. So this flares up particularly strongly in places where one has little or nothing to do with Muslims in the flesh – as work colleagues or at the local sports club – and has no human relations with them.

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