Pegida UK’s ‘Islamophobic’ Birmingham rally condemned by political leaders

A man gestures during a demonstration by supporters of the Pegida movement in Newcastle, northern England, February 28, 2015. © Peter Nicholls
Leaders of the three main political parties in Birmingham, Britain’s second city, have come together to condemn a planned anti-Islam rally, saying the “far-right” march is based on “prejudice, intolerance and hate.”

In a joint statement released on Monday, councilors John Clancy (Labour leader of Birmingham City Council), Robert Alden (leader of the Birmingham Conservatives) and Paul Tilsley (leader of the Birmingham Liberal Democrats) said they were “disappointed” to hear of the planned march.

Their statement comes after former English Defence League (EDL) leader Tommy Robinson announced he would relaunch the UK branch of Pegida, the xenophobic movement dedicated to halting immigration.

He told the IB Times UK that Birmingham had become the “terrorist epicenter of Britain.” The city would therefore hold the first anti-Islam rally on February 6.

The statement form the councilors read: “On the day that Birmingham was formally awarded City of Sanctuary status (December 4), it was disappointing to hear of the plans for the launch of a new anti-Islamic far-right group.

“Birmingham is a city that has a proud history of tolerance, cohesion and integration – with people from around the world of all faiths and heritage welcome to make their home here. 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 best way to demonstrate this is for everyone to go about their normal business on 6 February as a very public exhibition of what makes Birmingham great.”

The Pegida march will be met with a counter-protest, arranged by Unite Against Fascism (UAF), who branded the group “Islamophobic.”

“Recently, a 3,000 strong Newcastle Unites/UAF march humiliated the racists’ first mobilization in Britain, massively outnumbering their 300. We must organize to do the same in Birmingham,” a post on the UAF’s Facebook page read.

Robinson responded to the councilor’s statement. He called the politicians “hypocrites” for condemning the march, saying there were “no plans to march through or near a Muslim community.”

They’re calling us a far-right group before we’ve even been properly set up. Everyone knows I’m opposed to far-right extremism.

“The rally – which we’re calling a ‘silent walk’ – will be a march in Birmingham with some speeches at the end. We don’t want any confrontation. There will be no alcohol allowed, no masks allowed and no racists allowed. If there are opposition rallies, we don't want to go near them. We've asked the police where they think the best and safest place for us to march would be. We just want to walk peacefully through the streets. Why have these Birmingham councilors got a problem with that?”