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Anti-Islamist PEGIDA surfaces in Switzerland

AFP , Monday 12 Jan 2015
File Photo: Thousands of participants of a rally called 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West' (PEGIDA) gather in Dresden, eastern Germany Dec. 15, 2014 (Photo: AP)
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An anti-Islamic movement that id growing in Germany has established a Swiss wing and is planning a demonstration in the wealthy Alpine country next month.

The Swiss wing was launched late last week, taking the name of Germany's "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident" (PEGIDA).

It announced on its Facebook page it would organise a demonstration at an undisclosed location in Switzerland on February 16.

A counter demonstration has already been announced for the same day.

Germany's PEGIDA has seen soaring support as it rides a wave of fear and revulsion at last week's killings of 17 people in France by Islamic extremists.

Last week the German PEGIDA wing drew a record 18,000 people and it has said it hopes even more people will turn out for a rally Monday evening in Dresden.

Over the weekend some 35,000 people in Germany turned out for counter protests against the group.

The Swiss wing is headed by around a dozen anonymous committee members, with only their spokesman known by name: Ignaz Bearth.

Bearth is the current head of the Swiss Direct Democracy Party, a small party with links to France's Front National party, and a former member of the far-right Swiss Nationalist Party.

The Swiss Facebook page on Monday afternoon counted only 3,420 'likes', compared to almost 5,000 for the counter #No Pegida Schweiz page.

The new PEGIDA group presented a 14-point programme, including calling for a ban on wearing full-face and body covering burkas in Switzerland and on imam visits to schools.

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