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  • Barbara Kužnik

Döner with potatoes, please!

It was clear that last week’s attacks in Paris will have consequences all over Europe.

In Belgium, the terror threat level has been raised to three - the second highest, officials told the BBC after anti terror operation in Verviers yesterday, where two people were killed and one was wounded. According to police, they had targeted a group returning from Syria who had been about to launch "large-scale" attacks. BBC reports also about anti-terror raids under way in the Brussels region.

I don't feel this high ranged threat yet, but it surely brings some strange emotion into my everyday life.


With no reason actually, I am not a threat to anyone. But the fact is, we are in a war, combat against terrorism makes also me a target.

We entered into this endless circle of fear and hate and revenge. And what scares me even more, all these feelings are being manipulated week after week.

The movement - Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) has got variations in German cities and supporters abroad. News of today is that the Flemish section of PEGIDA movement is organizing a manifestation in Antwerp in Belgium next weekend.

So there are variations and they are spreading like a virus.

They do have some things in common, they all want from their governments to restrict immigration, they are accusing the authorities of failing to enforce existing laws, they are against gender mainstreaming and political correctness and they are constantly repeating that media tell only lies.

It seems to me that as a foreigner, woman and as a journalist I might be a target for this patriotic community too.

PEGIDA has been getting stronger since its formation in October 2014, especially in some parts of Germany. Last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris gave them the wings as they used the tragic events as a justification for their existence.

Since then in Germany a never-ending public debate is going on, and even if the context is almost never positive, they have the best media promotion they could get. This has become THE issue of all round tables and talk shows, commentaries and articles in the last week.

So, no wonder a record 25,000 people attended the PEGIDA march in Dresden on 12 January. And there is no need to explain that Dresden has far fewer immigrants than many other German cities.

Regarding the well-known proverb that the way to the man's heart is through his stomach, one of the PEGIDA slogans “Potato instead Döner” shows another dimension of this paradox.

Germans traditionally do eat a lot of potatoes, but the fact is, the origin of the potato isn’t in Germany, not even in Europe, but in South America. The Spanish introduced the potato to Europe after their conquest of the Inca Empire in the second half of the 16th century.

On the other hand, it is true, that "Döner" also "shawarma" is a Turkish dish made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, normally lamb. But as worldwide favourite snack it was actually born in Berlin. In 1972 Kadir Nurman, a Turkish immigrant, sold his first "döner kebab" in bread just opposite Bahnhof Zoo in West Berlin. Ever since, this has been a German fast-food number one and Berlin has become a "döner capital" with over a 1,000 snack shops.

This particular PEGIDA person, that has made this banner, played with a symbolism he, obviously, understood completely wrong.

Even though this symbolism has nothing to do with terror, we could use it - to step forward and order döner kebab with French fries.

As a symbol, a statement, a gesture that we all are together in this mess, on the same side, trying to defeat fear, hate and revenge.

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(Photo:twitter @netz4ktivisten)

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