The right-wing movement Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) is hoping to gain ground in European countries as the group plans to hold anti-Islam demonstrations in Vienna, the capital city of Austria. The Vienna branch of the German far-right populist movement announced that the protests will be held on Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. Austria's strong right-wing Freedom Party (FPOE) stated that they would give support for the upcoming anti-Islam demonstrations while warning against the Islamization of European countries. Counter-demonstrations are also being planned by the left-wing group NOWKR, Local Austria reported on Friday.
"We want to stress clearly that everyone is welcome - no matter which party, movement, organization or nationality – everyone who is against radical Islamism and sharia law and who wants to make a peaceful statement," the organizers said on their Facebook page, according to DPA news agency.
In the face of growing Islamophobia, Austria has recently witnessed attacks on their Muslim community. A 60-year-old Muslim woman was seriously injured after being attacked in a bank in Vienna. Some Muslim women wearing head scarves were insulted and attacked in Vienna, the reports stated. These incidents have increased with the rising threat posed by the radical Islamic State and al-Sham (ISIS) militants in European countries. Around 150 people, including 44 Austrian citizens, have left to join the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, according to the figures released by the Austrian government in August 2014. This has fueled anti-Islamic sentiment in Austria, together with many European countries.
Apart from Austria and Germany, another anti-Islam demonstration modelled on the recent PEGIDA protests is also being planned for next Monday in the capital city of Norway, Oslo. It is expected that the protests will spread to small countries like Denmark and large ones like Britain and Spain as the presence of a significant number of Muslims will likely fuel a resurgence in these countries.
The Dresden-based far-right PEGIDA has gained attention recently while drawing support from other far-right groups and ordinary citizens. Far-right anti-Muslim groups have become more prominent in Germany, like the PEGIDA-inspired KOEGIDA in Cologne, and HAGIDA in Hamburg. Since October 2014, Germany has 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 various German cities. The weekly marches started 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.