A lesson in moderation from Germany

By Andrew Sia ,The Star/Asia News Network

Whenever some NGO protests that Muslims in Malaysia are ��under threat�� from minorities who don’t hold the levers of power in this country (the latest one being that K-pop is a ��Kristian�� conspiracy to undermine Islam), one wonders what the ��silent majority�� can do? To answer that, perhaps we can look at what’s happening in Germany.

For the past three months, a group there called Pegida (the German acronym for ��Patriotic Europeans against Islamization of the West��) has had weekly demonstrations against an alleged ��Muslim threat�� from radicals and refugees. From an initial few hundred protestors, the numbers grew to 25,000 two weeks ago, after the Charlie Hebdo killings.

But what is amazing is that an estimated 100,000 people throughout Germany staged counter-protests against Pegida. Some of them held brooms in a symbolic gesture to ��sweep away�� racism and intolerance.

In response to earlier protests, the lights at Cologne’s landmark cathedral were switched off as a Pegida rally was due to pass by, as a sign of religious disapproval. And the city’s Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki called on Germans to show compassion, rather than prejudice, toward Muslim refugees. Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her New Year speech, urged people not to follow Pegida ��for their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice, and even hate.��

Learn from History I was reminded of some chats over beer with some German tourists in Thailand some time back. After reading up on the internet, I found that German students do indeed have extensive discussions and lessons (sometimes too much) about the dangers of fascist and racist ideologies. They learn that after the 1929 economic crash, there was mass unemployment and social unrest in Germany which Hitler’s Nazis exploited to attract popular support, blaming the country’s ills on the Jews and foreigners. Students also learn that one way the Nazis could brainwash ordinary Germans into supporting its ethnic cleansing was by controlling religion.