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Anti-Muslim rallies 'hurt Germany's image'

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Anti-Muslim rallies 'hurt Germany's image'
Police prepare for the demonstration on Sunday on Dresden's Theaterplatz. Photo: Arno Burgi/dpa
13:46 CET+01:00
Hours before a new rally in Dresden by the anti-Islamisation PEGIDA movement on Sunday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the group's sentiments were harming the nation's image.

"At home we under-estimate the damage that PEGIDA's xenophobic and racist slogans and placards have already had," Steinmeier said in an interview with daily newspaper Bild, published shortly before the start of PEGIDA's 13th rally in Dresden since the movement was launched there October 20th.

"Whether we want it or not, the world is watching Germany with great attention," Steinmeier continued, saying that scrutiny makes "it all the more important that we say clearly and strongly that PEGIDA does not speak in Germany's name".

Germany's top diplomat warned he was "incessantly being asked about" the apparent surge in anti-Muslim sentiment by his foreign peers. He also reminded readers that mobilising crowds with facile attacks on scapegoats like immigrants and asylum seekers was "easier than by (raising) complex subjects like insufficient infrastructure or the ageing of the population".

Sunday's 2:30 pm rally by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) is the first since its founder and leader, Lutz Bachmann, stepped down January 21st after a photo of him with a Hitler-style haircut and moustache was published along with racist slurs he posted on Facebook.

A PEGIDA rally in Dresden planned for January 19th was cancelled due to threats made against Bachmann. Its previous demonstration in the city - the movement's birthplace and stronghold - drew its largest ever crowd of 25,000 people on January 12th.

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