Anti-Islamist PEGIDA Movement Expands Across Europe

AP Photo/Jens Meyer
AP Photo/Jens Meyer

The German anti-Islamist group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) organized the largest rally in its history Monday, with official crowd size estimates at about 25,000. As the movement grows in Germany, fueled by anger at radical Islam for the deaths of 12 during last week’s massacre at the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, other countries are beginning to establish their own PEGIDA branches.

In Switzerland, reports Al Arabiya, the group has been organized under the same name by the leader of the Swiss Direct Democratic Party, Ignaz Bearth. The group, which currently has more than 3,000 “likes” on Facebook, despite being relatively news, aspires to organize a rally similar to the ones in Dresden on February 16–providing enough time to find willing participants to join the rally. The Facebook “likes” are especially important because of the origins of Germany PEGIDA, which also began as a Facebook group. In addition to organizing rallies, Swiss PEGIDA is making demands, including, according to Al Arabiya, “calling for a ban on wearing full-face and body covering burkas in Switzerland and on imam visits to schools.”

Austrians have also established their own national branch of PEGIDA. Daily Sabah reports that the Austrians are calling for their first rally to be held on February 2nd, also to give time for people to hear about the movement and join the rally. Organizers on Facebook emphasized the inclusiveness of the rally, writing, “We want to stress clearly that everyone is welcome – no matter which party, movement, organization or nationality – everyone who is against radical Islamism and sharia law and who wants to make a peaceful statement.” This, presumably, also includes moderate Muslims.

Meanwhile, in Norway, PEGIDA rallies have already begun. In solidarity with Monday night’s rallies in Germany, a group of supporters in Oslo took to the streets, with organizers telling Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet that they expected, at most, 200 to attend, though official estimates have not been released. Norwegian PEGIDA also has more than 3,000 “likes” on Facebook.

European branches of PEGIDA have been established in Spain, with a Facebook group surfacing in December and movement organizers calling for a rally in Madrid, though they have not yet established a date. The Facebook group has more than 2,500 “likes” and shares mostly images from rallies in Germany. It announced its intentions to organize a rally in the Spanish capital on its Twitter account.

Supporters of the movement have put together a Google map with the names and social media information of every known PEGIDA branch, spanning from Spain and the UK all the way east to Bulgaria. France and Germany appear to have the most separate branches and information to join the movement.


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