March Against Islam, Dresden, December 15 2014
March Against Islam, Dresden, December 15 2014Reuters

One German in eight would join an anti-Muslim march if a rapidly-growing protest movement organized one in their home towns, an opinion poll published on Thursday and cited by Reuters found.

The survey highlighted growing support in Germany, as in other European Union countries including Britain and Sweden, for parties and movements tapping into voter fears that mainstream politicians are too soft on immigration.

The poll comes as PEGIDA, the protest movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, holds weekly anti-Islam rallies in the eastern city of Dresden. The group attracted more than 17,000 people to a December 22 rally. A few small marches have taken place in other towns, and it plans to stage further rallies in other German cities.

PEGIDA has gained popularity in Dresden and nationwide, despite being founded just two months ago. Support for anti-Islam rallies has become so high, in fact, that the group has become a subject of scorn for German officials, who claim the organization only stirs tensions between the influx of Muslim immigrants and dozens of right-wing and neo-Nazi groups.

The latest poll of 1,006 people by Forsa for Germany’s Stern magazine found 13 percent would attend an anti-Muslim march nearby.

It also found 29 percent of people believed that Islam was having such an influence on life in Germany that the marches were justified, according to Reuters.

While two thirds of those polled believed the idea of an ‘Islamization’ of Germany was exaggerated, many Germans are concerned about the numbers of asylum seekers, many from Syria, pouring into the country.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned the country's citizens not to participate in the weekly rallies, saying they were driven by prejudices and hatred against foreigners.

The chancellor used unusually direct words in her New Year's speech on Wednesday for the rallies, reported The Associated Press (AP).

When the protesters chant "we are the people," they actually mean to say "you don't belong — because of your religion or your skin color," Merkel said.

She noted in the remarks that refugees from wars and crises around the globe are welcome in Germany, saying many of them "literally escaped death."

"It goes without saying that we will help them and accommodate people who are looking for refuge," said Merkel.