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Danish Pegida organizer: No racists allowed

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A policeman runs next to burning garbage bins during an anti-Pegida demo in Leipzig on Monday. The organizer of a Danish Pegida predicted a peaceful evening. Photo: DPA/Sebastian Willnow/Scanpix
17:23 CET+01:00
The Pegida movement in Germany has been branded as xenophobic and racist by many, but the organizer of the first Pegida event in Denmark tells The Local that the Danish version will be a cozy affair free of "racists, Nazis and militants".
The Pegida movement’s incursion north from Germany and into Denmark is a sign that “a lot of completely normal Danish people” are worried about Islamic fundamentalists, the organizer of a Pegida event in Copenhagen told The Local.
 
The first Danish Pegida event in Denmark will be held on Monday with a march through the streets of Copenhagen. 
 
 
The event is being organized by Nicolai Sennels, who told The Local on Wednesday that while his group has no official connections with Pegida in Germany, he has been closely watching the protests there. 
 
“We followed the movement for some time [in Germany] to see what sort of movement it is. We read the reports from Germany and German opinion polls and they all came out showing that this was a positive and popular movement with all layers of society coming out,” Sennels said. 
 
Sennels was at one point a political candidate for the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, but he said the Copenhagen march “is not about a political stance or about being on the left or right.”
 
“This is simply a popular movement speaking out on behalf of a lot of worried Europeans against this violent type of Islam,” he told The Local. 
 
Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, is certainly not without its detractors, however. In many German cities, counter-demonstrators have far outnumbered Pegida supporters and German Chancellor Angela Merkel even said that Pegida organizers “have prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts”
 
But Sennels insists that the Danish Pegida movement will be free of xenophobes and racists. In the event description on Facebook, he writes that “you should stay away if you are racist, a Nazi or look ‘militant’.” 
 
“We want to avoid this getting high-jacked by some idiots or racists. That would be a pity, because there are a lot of completely normal Danish people - school teachers, my mother, etc - who don’t necessarily vote for the right wing but who should be able to voice their aversion to this violent type of Islam,” Sennels said. 
 
Sennels said that even the word ‘march’ sounds too militaristic and he prefers the term “evening stroll”. He added that he has worked closely with police to ensure that the event will be a peaceful and even “hyggeligt” event with live music, torches and a sing-along at the Little Mermaid. 
 
But Sennels said that those who take part in the “stroll” have real reason to fear radical Islamists and those who believe in an “undiluted and unmoderated version of the Koran”. He pointed to a 2013 study from the Berlin Social Science Center that revealed that 75 percent of Muslim immigrants in Europe believe that the Koran must be taken literally. 
 
“Such numbers suggest that our European ghettos are to a very high degree populated by people following the violent, deadly doctrine of Islamic jihad,” he said. 
 
And in Denmark, where a controversial mosque has openly declared support for the terrorist group Isis and at least 110 citizens have become foreign fighters, Sennels said there is plenty to be worried about. 
 
One of Monday’s scheduled speakers is Jomana Jojo Joy, a self-described “Christian Arab” who says that fundamentalist Muslims forced her out of Copenhagen’s Nørrebro district. 

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“To suggest that one is racist because you condemn or demonstrate against radical Islam is a straw man argument used by some. Radical Islam, which has been expanding for a long time but has been sharply rising over recent years, is a threat to the West and the values we stand for,” she wrote on Facebook. 
 
Sennels said that his plan is to hold weekly Pegida events on Mondays, as in Dresden. And just like in Dresden and other German cities, Pegida’s Copenhagen event will be met by a counter demonstration. 
 
The “evening stroll” begins at 6pm at the National Gallery of Denmark. 
 
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