Since October, there have been weekly marches by a group called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident, also known as PEGIDA, increasing racism against Muslim citizens seeking asylum in Germany. Since the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre, the marches have gotten stronger in number, making the problem much more obvious. The major problem is that the marches are targeting Muslims as a whole and not just the few radicals that give the faith a bad name.

Germany’s current state is a reflection of its past. A history of problems branching from nationalism and xenophobia haunt the nation. Centuries ago, German citizens rallied behind their country as they faced invasions by Napoleon. This was among the first seeds of patriotism and showed that unity could help strengthen the nation. Yet, the more known example of German nationalism was the Holocaust. The gruesome genocide showed how a national identity can easily slip into a jingoism, which can set the stage for unconscionable brutality.

Ever since Nazism lost its stronghold in Germany, nationalism became viewed as problematic more than anything. Viewing one’s own nation as better than that of others creates a feeling of animosity toward other cultures.  This animosity can have strong affects the foreign policy initiatives that governments carry out.

While the vast majority of German foreign policy actions reflects an aversion to nationalism, the same cannot be said about the nation’s immigration policy. There aren’t integration standards to that make it possible for immigrants to become involved in German society. This is especially an issue for Muslim immigrants, who face major hostility.

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, made clear in her New Years Address that she did not support Pegida, and she urged citizens to avoid the rallies. From her perspective the rallies are a major threat to the stability of her foreign policy, as the rallies draw the support of neo-Nazi’s into the political realm.

But it’s not all bad news: just as many people as there are rallying against Muslims in Germany, there are people counter-protesting. These counter-protesters make the compelling argument that Islamophobia is unlikely to gain substantial traction in Germany. They point out that the rallies tend to take place in locations that have little exposure to foreigners.

Knowing this, the best route to ending the xenophobia problem in Germany is clear. The government needs to do what has been done in the places with the least xenophobia: allow more foreigners to integrate. By having a more welcoming policy toward entering immigrants, Germany can take a step further from its disastrous past that people are so eager to separate themselves from.

[Image attribute: Bündnis 90/Die Grünen Nordrhein-Westfalen]