German anti-Islam group marches in Britain

Pegida, a populist anti-Islam movement – in Germany. It only held its first march against the “Islamisation of the West” in the German city of Dresden last October; now, it seems, it is ready to spread its message internationally. Branches have been set up in several other countries, including France and Spain, and the Newcastle demonstration next Saturday will be its first in Britain. If it is successful, more marches are planned, for Birmingham and London, as well as Bathgate in Scotland.

It is a remarkably ambitious expansion plan for a group that has proved so shambolic at home. Its spokesmen initially insisted that it had no links to the far-Right, a position that was rather undermined when a picture emerged of its leader, Lutz Bachmann, sporting a Hitler moustache. Yet, for all the chaos, Pegida has clearly touched a nerve. Its weekly marches in Dresden have been attended by as many as 25,000 Germans, and were particularly well-attended in the aftermath of last month’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Organisers expect only a tiny fraction of that figure at the march in Newcastle. Matthew Pope, its UK spokesman, said he hoped 1,000 supporters would show up. Even so, it will be a crucial test for Pegida, to see if it can tap into local disenchantment to build a broad-based movement in Britain to mirror the mass marches in Germany.

But why Newcastle? The number of Muslims in the city nearly doubled in the decade after 2001, but they still only account for around six percent of the overall population, a much lower concentration than in other northern cities such as Bolton and Manchester. The official line – put about by Pope, a 29-year-old born-again Christian from Cambridgeshire – is that the city was deliberately chosen because it is not a regular haunt of the far-Right, so that Pegida would not be tarnished by association.

However, Newcastle United fans have urged far-right activists to stay away from their city, amid growing tensions over the anti-Islamic movement Pegida’s first rally in Britain. NUFC Fans United supporters group made it clear that far-right protesters were not welcome in Newcastle, saying the city was “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit”. In a statement, they warned: “There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

Newcastle United Creates Prayer Room to Accommodate Muslim Players

3 April 2013

 

Newcastle United, a premier league side with seven Muslim players in its first-team squad, believed to be the most in the premier league, established a Muslim prayer room in its stadium to accommodate the pre-match spiritual needs of its players.

 

Newcastle United’s Muslim players come under pressure over the controversial sponsorship deal with moneylenders

10 October 2012

 

Football team Newcastle United cut a controversial £24 Million bound sponsorship deal with moneylender company Wonga. The deal drew immediate criticism from public for the high interest rate that the company charges for the loans. One of the harshest criticisms came from Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, who said: “I’m appalled and sickened that they would sign a deal with a legal loan shark. It’s a sad indictment of the profit-at-any-price culture at Newcastle United. We are fighting hard to tackle legal and illegal loan sharking and having a company like this right across the city on every football shirt that’s sold undermines all our work.”

 

The criticism over the deal received a new dimension when Muslim Council of Britain, one of the largest Muslim organizations in the UK, joined the debate and warned the Muslim team players that if they wear the lending company’s logo they would be breaching Islamic law. According to Islamic law giving and taking interest is considered to be a major sin. Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the MCB, said: “The idea is to protect the vulnerable and the needy from exploitation by the rich and powerful. When they are lending and are charging large amounts of interest, it means the poor will have short-term benefit from the loan but long-term difficulty in paying it back because the rate of interest is not something they can keep up with. The Islamic system is based on a non-interest-based system of transaction.”

 

The statement put the four practicing Muslim team players, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa in a difficult situation, though they have not made any statement on the issue.