A German group that has made headlines – and drawn criticism – worldwide by organizing mass marches against the supposed “Islamisation of Europe” has now spawned a chapter in the United Kingdom, one that wants to hold demonstrations in two English cities in the coming weeks.
Patriotic Europeans Against Islamisation of the West, better known by its German acronym Pegida, is the mobilizing force behind a series of weekly demonstrations held every Monday in the eastern German city of Dresden. The marches have pulled up to 25,000 people at a time into the streets to protest against what they see as the spread of Muslim culture inside historically Christian parts of Europe.
Led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, equally large numbers of people have taken to the streets across Germany to protest against what they see as Pegida’s dangerous xenophobia. The group’s image problem worsened on Wednesday, when Pegida co-founder Lutz Bachmann resigned following the publication of a photograph of him posing as Adolf Hitler.
More than 10,000 people have clicked “like” for Pegida UK’s manifesto since the group launched on Facebook on Jan. 4. Two founders of the British chapter – who spoke to The Globe and Mail on the condition their family names not be used – say the movement is now planning to test whether those who support it online are willing to take to the streets.
However, the head of the German anti-Islamisation movement Pegida has stepped down after a picture of him posing as Adolf Hitler went viral. Lutz Bachmann, 41, a butcher’s son from Dresden and co-founder of the organisation, was seen as Pegida’s figurehead and his resignation throws the future of the group into doubt. Pegida’s popularity has led to widespread fears that Germany is in the grip of a new breed of far-right ideologues, and the picture raised questions about the group’s allegiance to the far-right scene.