5 Feb 2015

Pegida anti-Islamists in UK: are the media hyping it up?

UK news outlets are reporting Britain is to host its first Pegida anti-Islam protest this month – but is media hype feeding a fringe Facebook event?

The Pegida UK Facebook page sprang up over a month ago in the wake of the far-right protests across Germany, although the group has no direct connection to the original Pegida organisers.

Reports today have raised fears that Pegida – which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West – are to hold their “first march”, although the prospect appears to be overblown.

The movement has already attempted to portray itself as a middle-class group of people opposed to the “Islamisation of west”.

But Matthew Collins, researcher with campaign group Hope Not Hate, said the supposed movement has attracted “the same people” – radical right-wingers – who destroyed the English Defence League and the British National Party.

“It has no traction here whatsoever,” he added.

A Pegida protester in Vienna

It has emerged that a Pegida march is being planned in Newcastle on Saturday 28 February, with later demonstrations suggested for Birmingham and London.

Sparse support

The group said in a Facebook post: “Pegida UK is holding its first rally in Newcastle. All are welcome to attend. lets show the Islamists we show no fear.”

However, the group does not mention a previous event they held last month which reportedly drew very little public support.

Opponents reportedly have plans to hold a counter-demonstration, and police said they had not been notified that a march was planned.

A Pegida march in Dresden, Germany drew an estimated 25,000 people in January, with several other German cities holding supporting rallies.

The Dresden protests started in late 2014, attracting a few hundred people after information was shared in social media websites.

But the German protests have also drawn thousands of anti-racism opponents, with anti-Pegida marchers vastly outnumbering Pegida supporters in some cities.

In Cologne in January, a group of 250 Pegida protesters were opposed by a group of about 10 times that number.

The first Austrian Pegida march was held this week in Vienna, although it only attracted about 250 people and many more opposing them.

Pegida’s progress in Germany has been hit by the resignation of its leader Lutz Bachmann in January after a picture emerged of him posing as Adolf Hitler in a Facebook post.

Four other senior Pegida members have also resigned in recent days amid fears their cause was being hijacked by right-wing extremists.