Since its founding in 2014, Pegida has positioned itself as a populist movement striving to limit immigration and to preserve Germany’s cultural heritage. It has also aligned itself with other right-wing European political groups whose exclusionary views are rooted in theories of a civilizational clash between the West and the Islamic world. Pegida’s pushback against immigration also includes appeals to resist globalization and the growth of multiculturalism by embracing what Verena Stolcke has termed “cultural fundamentalism.” This ideology assumes cultural hierarchies and segregates religious and ethnic groups spatially and geographical as a means to maintain cultural uniformity. In doing so, Pegida posits that it is not racist or xenophobic, rather that it seeks solidarity in maintaining Western cultural values. The danger in Pegida’s ideology is that it rejects not only constitutional principles and notions of cultural pluralism, but that it furthers a cultural divide that need not exist and, in fact, embraces an exclusionary nationalism that is not unlike the values that they purport to reject.
David N. Coury is Professor of Humanistic Studies (German) and Global Studies at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, where he also co-directs the Center for Middle East Studies and Partnerships. He has published works on contemporary German literature and culture and most recently several essays on Navid Kermani and questions of German and European identity. His current research explores the literary and cultural intersection between Europe and the Islamic World.