German nationalist group to rally against Islam
rahul | September 12, 2008 at 06:10 amby
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2008-09-12 15:45:02 - COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - A nationalist German group said Friday it has invited leading members of the European right to take part in a «anti-Islamification» conference against the planned construction of a large mosque. French far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration National Front party, Filip Dewinter, leader of Belgium's nationalist Flemish Interest party and Christian Strache, leader of Austria's right-wing Freedom Party are all expected to attend next week's conference said Markus Beisicht, head of the Pro-Cologne nationalist movement. Beisicht said he expected 1,500 people to turn out for the group's demonstration on Sept. 20 against the city's decision to allow construction of a new, domed mosque _ complete with two 55-meter-tall (177-foot-tall) minarets _ in the city's heavily immigrant Ehrenfeld district. Leftist groups are organizing counter-protests, including a weeklong blockade of Cologne's historic downtown square, which fans out from the city's massive Roman Catholic Cathedral _ German-born Pope Benedict XVI's first stop abroad as pontiff and traditional symbol of the nation's deeply Christian roots. News of the nationalist conference, officially called «No to Islamification,» has provoked anger in Islamic countries. Last week the Iranian Foreign Ministry urged France as the current European Union president to block the gathering and complained that it reflects a «growth of anti-Islamic sentiments in Europe. Pro-Cologne's leaders, however, insist they support Muslims' right to live in Germany, provided they learn the language here and «actively demonstrate» a willingness to integrate. But they say that such a large mosque has no place in traditionally Roman Catholic Cologne. «Of course we want to guarantee Muslims' right to freedom of religion,» said Pro-Cologne deputy leader Judith Wolter. «But building a large mosque is not part of that.
Besides protesting the mosque, Beisicht said the conference is aimed at strengthening pan-European efforts among rightist and populist movements across the continent with an eye toward forming a «serious European right-wing party. The group insists that, while it is nationalist and populist, it rejects racism, violence and any links to Germany's traditional right-wing parties, including the far-right National Democratic Party, or NPD. «We represent a new political approach,» said Beisicht.
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