Nick Gutteridge, Express, January 5, 2016
The UK branch of the far-right German campaign group PEGIDA marked its introduction into the UK political sphere with a series of provocative and divisive statements about Islam and the current refugee crisis.
The new group, which has been set up by former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson, also announced its first planned protest with a message calling on supporters to “save our culture”.
Addressing reporters at a pub in Luton, Mr Robinson said: “We have an ideological problem in this country with Islam. It’s not assimilated in any sort of way.
“Our political leaders and our European leaders are working against the interests of the people with the refugee influx–which is a migrant invasion–and we want to replicate the resistance of PEGIDA in Germany in the UK. It will be very different to how the English Defence League used to do things.
He then added: “I’m opposed to Islam as a fascist ideology. We are not an anti-Muslim group. We feel Muslims are victims of Islam.”
He also announced PEGIDA’s first major rally will take place in Birmingham and is being billed as a “peaceful silent walk”. Organisers have warned participants that “no alcohol or face coverings will be tolerated” in a bid to prevent the sort of drink-fuelled violence that marred EDL protests.
The walk is being organised in conjunction with PEGIDA branches across Europe and is centred on the theme “Save Our Country, Save Our Culture, Save Our Future”.
Birmingham City Council leaders issued a statement ahead of the upcoming march saying: “Brummies do not subscribe to ideas based on prejudice, intolerance and hate.
“That is why the planned launch of a new group in Birmingham is rejected by the council.”
The group, whose name is a German acronym standing for Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamisation Of The West, has been accused in some quarters of being a far-right hate group.
But Mr Robinson looked to distance it from both the British National Party and the EDL, retweeting a message from a supporter saying it is “completely wrong” to suggest the three are related.
The controversial campaigner quit the EDL in 2013, citing his fear that far-right protestors had hijacked the group and bemoaning its reputation as alcohol-fuelled and violent.
He briefed journalist about PEGIDA UK’s aims alongside its new leader, Paul Weston, at the Cuckoo pub in Luton yesterday afternoon.
Mr Weston is seen as a controversial appointment by some following his arrest in 2014 on claims of inciting racial harassment.
The veteran campaigner was hauled away from a rally in Winchester by police after he quoted an apparently anti-Islam passage from a book by Winston Churchill. No further action was taken against him.
But he said: “If we are allowed to have peaceful, quiet demonstrations, that will appeal to moderate England, people who feel they can bring their children, their grandchildren out,” Weston said.
“We would like everything to be removed. We don’t want to have confrontations with the far-left.”
Also joining the senior management of the group will be Anne Marie Waters, chairwoman of Sharia Watch and a former parliamentary candidate for UKIP.
But the campaign group Unite Against Facism, said: “PEGIDA UK aim to recreate the hatred of their allies elsewhere in Europe where thousands have massed targeting the Muslim community. We should oppose it.”
PEGIDA began in Germany where it still has the biggest following, with more than 25,000 people attending a march in Dresden last month.
The movement also has branches in Denmark and Norway, but has been banned from carrying out marches in Spain, Switzerland and Belgium.