Lutz Bachmann, left, and Kathrin Oertel of Pegida movement address a news conference in January. AFP
Germany is home to nearly 4 million Muslims, including 220,000 in Berlin alone. Offering support for the community, German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a vigil for tolerance in Berlin 2 weeks ago
BERLIN (IINA) – After months of leading anti-Muslim protests in Germany, Kathrin Oertel, former leader of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant Pegida movement, has apologized to Muslims for spreading a campaign of hatred across Europe, according to media reports.
Oertel’s apology came in a video message, posted on Facebook on Thursday. “Those still belonging to the Pegida movement need to understand that they are advocating for the wrong cause,” she said. “Asylum seekers are blamed for our problems in Europe and Germany. However, they’re not the root cause of our struggle,” she continued before directing her words to the immigrants she had previously condemned.
“I want to apologize to all migrants and to all Muslims among them who live peacefully and are assimilated with German society, who respect our culture and laws. They are in the vast majority and most Germans overlook this fact,” Oertel said.
“I feel partially responsible for a campaign of hatred we caused. I want to apologize and the only thing I can do is to help resolve those tensions,” Oertel said in the statement, which appeared to have been spontaneously recorded in a car.
Oertel had first been the spokeswoman and later the head of the popular movement which shocked the world. Since last November, right-wing extremists and ordinary citizens had marched in joint weekly rallies in opposition to Muslim immigration to Germany.
“To achieve peace, one needs to be ready for dialogue,” Oertel said. “That’s the only way to get rid of prejudices.” The ex-Pegida leader made clear that she was no longer fighting against Islam, but instead for “world peace,” according to her own words
Oertel’s new fight for world peace has surprised many of her former supporters. Since October, the group “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident” or PEGIDA has been holding weekly marches against Muslims and immigrants.
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. Also, 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.
In her New Year speech, Merkel urged people to help refugees fleeing conflicts, telling them to turn their backs to the “racist”, “full of hatred” anti-Muslim movement.
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.