Islamophobia is on the rise in Europe, and its face appears to be Pegida.
The Germany-based group (its acronym stands for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West") just had its largest march yet outside of its base in Dresden. On Wednesday night approximately 10,000 demonstrators gathered in the German city of Leipzig, an event organized by the offshoot group Legida.
The ideals espoused by the anti-Islamic group have resonated elsewhere in Europe, with multiple offshoots popping up across the country. The bulk of these have been digital-only, and have been proudly chronicled by in the map below by pro-Pegida site Zukunfst Kinder (whichroughly translates to "the future of children").
The colored dots represent Facebook groups that have been endorsed or recognized by a larger regional Pegida group, while the white ones are yet to be confirmed.
Pegida began in October as a weekly protest in response to Germany's growing refugee population. The group says it stands for stricter oversight over the country's refugee population and that they assimilate into German culture. Despite their claims of secularism, Pegida also insists that Germany's Judeo-Christian culture be preserved. Initially these protests were small—a few hundred showed up for the first one—but they'd have grown exponentially since.
Pegida had its watershed moment a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, drawing at least 25,000 supporters. The Parisian shooters served as the perfect boogeymen for what Pegida claims is happening to Europe.
“The Islamists, against whom Pegida has been warning over the last 12 weeks, showed in France today that they are not capable of [practicing] democracy but instead see violence and death as the solution,” read a post on the group's Facebook page immediately after the attacks.
Thankfully, Pegida's Islamophobia has vocal detractors. Every Pegida rally has been met by an even larger counter-demonstration (Leipzig's anti-Legida march blocked off supporters from joining in the protest), and the group's ideology has drawn comparisons to the Neo-Nazis. (Coincidentally enough, Pegida founder Lutz Bachman resigned on Tuesday after an image of him dressed as Hitler went viral).
Still, Pegida has found some support among moderates. According to a poll conducted by German weekly paper De Zeit (1,107 individuals were asked "Do you have sympathy for the demonstrations against Islamic State and the Islamization taking place in German cities?"), only 13 percent of respondents said that they didn't, while 30 percent said they were in full support. The remaining 57 percent fell somewhere in the middle.
Pegida has mobilized beyond Facebook. Several marches have already occurred across Europe, are are scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. Here are the ones that we've found so far.
On Monday, Pegida DK, the Danish offshoot, organized its first "stroll through" in the capital city of Copenhagen. 200 supporters showed up.
Emulating their Dresden counterparts, Pegida DK has scheduled their second demonstration for next Monday.
A Facebook group calling itself "Islám v České republice nechceme" ("We don't want Islam in the Czech Republic") organized a rally on Friday in Prague. Anywhere from a couple of hundred to 1,000 people showed up.
The group has more than 112,000 supporters on the social media platform. It has yet to organize a second event.
A demonstration is scheduled for February 2 in Vienna. The event was scheduled by Pegida Osterreich ("Pegida Austria") and has been endorsed by the Freedom Party of Austria, a far right political party.
Pegida Schweiz ("Pegida Swiss") announced on its Facebook page a rally for February 16. The group has yet to disclose the location, but did release a list of invited speakers. Among these is Tatjana Festerling, a member of Alternative für Deutschland ("Alternative for Germany"), a right wing populist party that has advocated for Germany to leave the European Union.
Fidel Martinez is an editor at Fusion.net. He's also a Texas native and a lifelong El Tri fan.