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PEGIDA Quebec suffering from low popularity, cancels anti-Islam march

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The anti-Islam movement with European roots, PEGIDA, cannot gain credibility for its supporters in Canada. The Quebec branch cancelled protests due to low levels of participation amid sharp criticism.

Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA), a European anti-Islam, anti-immigrant movement, has failed to gain ground in Canada after the new Canadian branch of the group cancelled a demonstration due to low levels of participation. The Quebec branch of PEGIDA has over 3,000 supporters with more people considering Islam a threat, signaling a rising fear and hatred of Muslim society and immigrants not only in Europe, but in Canada as well. However, only hundreds of people showed up to the protest against Islam, fuelling Islamophobia and xenophobia in the country. As a response to anti-Islam demonstrations, around 500 people gathered to rally against the PEGIDA movement in Montreal’s Little Maghreb neighborhood, which is home to a large North African Muslim community.

The city of Montreal “is a welcoming place and we will condemn all forms of Islamaphobia,” Mayor Denis Coderre said, condemning any racist or hateful act in the city before the protests took place on Saturday.

The presence of such movements like PEGIDA would likely harm the founding principles of Canada, which has been a multicultural society since 1971 “when the government of Canada began to recognize the value and dignity of Canadians of all races and ethnic groups, all languages and all religions.” The country promotes multiculturalism in all aspects and believes that it would “encourage many cultures to thrive in a society.”

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms also protects the freedom to practice religion and promotes respect for others’ beliefs, unlike PEGIDA’s stance on Islam and immigrants in the country.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also called to outlaw the movement as it threatens the country’s tolerant and pluralist stance. The planned rally was also denounced in the House of Commons and the Quebec legislature.

The far-right populist movement was founded in Dresden, Germany in October 2014. Right after its establishment, Germany witnessed several anti-Islam demonstrations and racially-motivated attacks organized by far-right extremist groups. Since then, there have been weekly anti-Islam rallies organized by far-right populist groups in the eastern German city of Dresden. The weekly rallies began with nearly 500 demonstrators protesting the rising number of immigrants. However, the marches have grown much larger with support growing from disenchanted Germans who oppose the “Islamization” of their country. The far-right movement has struck a chord with many Germans after gaining a solid grounding in German society in the face of growing far-right extremism. It has also become a world-wide phenomenon spreading across Europe.

Some demonstrations have turned into neo-Nazi rallies through which hatred and aggression toward Muslims is promoted, especially after the Charlie Hebdo massacre and kosher supermarket killings, in which 17 people were killed in January. The movement attracts support from hundreds of far-right extremists as well as established groups of football hooligans bent on violence promoted by neo-Nazi sentiments. Regarding violent slogans against Muslims in Germany, people are more inclined to act violently against Muslims and immigrants, showing existing neo-Nazi violence in the movement, a charge that the PEGIDA strictly denies.

PEGIDA has spread across Europe while warning against the Islamization of European countries. Apart from Germany, anti-Islam demonstrations modeled on PEGIDA protests were held in Norway and Belgium. The protests later spread to small countries like Denmark and large ones like the U.K. and Spain as the presence of a significant number of Muslims has likely fuelled a resurgence in these countries.

Resource: Daily Sabah, March 29, 2015

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