Australian conservatives rally for German anti-Islam Pegida movement

Conservative groups rallied in the Australian capital Saturday in support of Pegida, the Islamophobic and anti-foreigner movement that started in Germany and has since spread to other countries.

Around 400 protesters marched toward the parliament building in Canberra, shouting anti-Muslim slogans such as "We love bacon" and "Who the hell is Allah?"

Pegida demonstrations were also set to take place across Europe on Saturday, including in Prague, Warsaw, Amsterdam and Dresden, the eastern German city where the group was founded in late 2014.

Daniel Evans, a leader of Reclaim Australia, called the event "preservation of Australia Day," saying they had gathered to protect Western democracy and Australian culture.

Another rally organizer, John Bolton, said six groups had gathered in Canberra to support Pegida in Germany, the first such event to be held in Australia.

"We see what happens when Islam is not controlled, like the incident in Cologne," he told dpa, referring to the mass sexual attacks against women on New Year's Eve that have been blamed on migrants.

Bolton, a lawyer, said he was pro-immigration but claimed that earlier newcomers had come with the intention of integrating and becoming an Australian.

"Islamic immigrants come with the view of an isolationist. They do not want to mix, don't learn English, set up own schools. We are seeing the results of such isolation in Germany and France," he said.

"Rapefugees not welcome," "Ban the Burka," and "Islam is a crime against humanity," read some of the banners at the event.

Around two dozen left-wing protestors arrived to counter the Pegida rally, but the groups were separated by police barricades.

"I come here as an individual against Islamization of Australia and of the West," Sydney real estate developer Brian Donnelly, 72, said at the protest.

"We welcome all people as long as they are prepared to assimilate, but lately, I see a creeping influence of Islam in Australian culture," he said, noting it was his first time ever attending a political rally.

He called for a ban on "Islamic face masks," said police should have more "terrorism powers" and described mosques as a threat to Australian identity.

Right-wing groups in Australia have expressed hostility toward Muslims in the country, saying many of them are "Islamists in disguise" who are threats to the national security.

Incidents like the deadly 2014 siege in a Sydney cafe by a lone Muslim fanatic and the killing of a policeman by a Muslim teenager outside a Sydney police station last year have led the activists to demand tougher treatment of Muslims by the authorities.

Pegida, a German acronym for "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," saw tens of thousands of supporters turn out at rallies in Dresden early last year.

But it's seen attendance numbers fall in Germany in recent months, despite Europe's mounting migration crisis.

Last update: Sat, 06/02/2016 - 10:51

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