Politician George Galloway has called on the government to ban a planned ‘Anti-Islamization’ demonstration in Newcastle by what he called “knuckle-dragging thugs”.
The firebrand MP for Bradford told the Newcastle Chronicle that he intends to be a part of a counter demonstration against PEGIDA UK, which plans to march through Newcastle city centre on 28 February.
The demonstration is being organized by the British arm of Germany’s PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement which rails against Islam and what it calls “criminal asylum seekers”.
Mr Galloway, a well-known supporter of Palestine, said he would join “hundreds of other anti-Fascists” who will be demonstrating against the PEGIDA march which he said was “only intended to stir up racial hatred”.
“I know that the police have only limited powers to stop these marches but the Home Secretary has the power to nip this in the bud by banning these knuckle-dragging thugs from the streets of Newcastle and elsewhere in the country”, Mr Galloway said.
Several multi-cultural organizations from the city are also planning to counter the PEGIDA UK march.
Howard Dickinson, chairperson of Newcastle Unites, said: “We don’t want this movement in Newcastle. This type of Islamaphobia should not, and will not, be tolerated.
“The idea of the counter-demo is to show the massive opposition there is the North East to these people.”
There have been dozens of PEGIDA demonstrations in Germany as well as Sweden and Austria.
Protestors however, have often been outnumbered by counter-demonstrators and protests.
In January, Dresden cathedral and other public institutions switched were plunged into darkness in a symbolic gesture against a PEGIDA march through the city.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described the group as full of “prejudice, chilliness and hatred”.
The Newcastle march is the first UK demo planned by Pegida UK who say a number of other cities could follow.
The UK group is headed by a man named Matthew Pope who has previously run a Facebook page called “Ban Islam”.
According to the International Business Times, Pope has also claimed that there are no peaceful Muslims and is said to have ties to far-right groups.
Intriguingly, Pope has said that his group chose Newcastle over London for the march because the British capital was full of “right-wing extremists and we wouldn’t want to associate ourselves with them”.
Pope, who lives in the Cambridgeshire area, describes himself as a “liberal” who has called for Islam to be made “illegal” because “it is impossible for Muslims to re-adapt Islam to the 21st Century”.
According to reports, Pope is a trained mental care nurse but has been unemployed since early 2014 because he is barred from working in the industry due to an assault charge.
He claims to have been made homeless as a result. However, despite “working hard to get back on my feet”, Pope says he is unable to find any kind of work because of “immigration”.
In one Facebook post, he writes: “While I cry every day as money runs out. Falling into deep depression. I read the papers to find British jobs are being advertised abroad first. I also see thousands of people coming here each week. How come they get jobs and the only job I get is to read the rejection emails that fill my inbox on a daily basis?”