Attempts by anti-Islamic group Pegida to hold a ‘pork fest’ by a Turkish-owned mosque in Rotterdam has been thwarted following a large turnout of Dutch counter-protests. The planned barbecue was due to take place by Laleli Mosque on Thursday, 7 June, with the permission of the local authority.
According to news reports, when some 20 Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against Islamisation of the West) members turned up for the barbecue outside the small mosque on Thursday evening, they were confronted by several hundred demonstrators. The two camps were kept apart by the police.
The demonstrators formed a protective human chain around the mosque to prevent the far-right group from getting close to the building. A tense atmosphere prevailed as the anti-fascist protestors, which included the mosque’s local worshippers of Turkish and Moroccan origin, chanted against the neo-Nazis and Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. The mayor had approved the Pegida barbecue, which was set to take place at the same time just as Muslims broke their daily fast (iftar) inside the building.
When it became apparent to Pegida that they would struggle to roast their pigs outside the mosque as planned, they called the event off. Soon after, the counter-demonstrators also dispersed without any further incident.
A spokesperson for Mayor Aboutaleb told the newspaper NU.nl that Pegida “made the decision not to let the demonstration go on itself, when they saw the crowd.”
Dutch party BIJ1: “Love is the only force transforming enemy into friends!”
Pegida’s provocative action had been widely condemned across the Netherlands and also abroad. The far-right group had announced its plans to roast pork during iftar by mosques in Utrecht, Gouda, the Hague and Arnhem, but they were subsequently banned by the local authorities. Yet Rotterdam Mayor Aboutaleb, of Moroccan Muslim heritage, surprisingly consented, shocking the local community.
On the day of the planned roast in Rotterdam, dozens of non-Muslim Dutch citizens visited the mosque to place flowers in the hedge around it. The wall of flowers was intended to help dispel the strong odours from the barbecue. The community’s action drew considerable praise online.
Posting photos of people adding flowers, Ismail Dahbi wrote on Twitter: “In Rotterdam they built a wall of flowers around the mosque against the haters of #Pegida This is why I have to go back to Rotterdam!”
— Ismail Dahbi (@IsmailDahbi10) 7 June 2018
As well as laying flowers, members of progressive Dutch party BIJ1 also chalked a positive message on the road outside the mosque stating: “Love is the only force transforming enemy into friends!”
Internationally, Turkey’s EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik was among those to slam the Rotterdam authorities for permitting a hate-inspired act against the Dutch Turkish mosque. Çelik posted a series of tweets in English and Turkish and was unequivocal in his condemnation:
“This is the most immoral attempt ever in the history of hate crimes. Granting legal permission to such an immoral activity is also another deficiency of morality.”
Warm welkom voor Pegida in Rotterdam.
Ook een aantal leden van kernteam Rotterdam BIJ1 is aanwezig. pic.twitter.com/lTPnJwu78d
— BIJ1 (@PolitiekBIJ1) 7 June 2018
Far right organisation Pegida has been granted permission to roast pigs on spits in front of a mosque in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
— Ömer Çelik (@omerrcelik) 6 June 2018
Main photo © Twitter / Dutch party BIJ1 outside Laleli Mosque, Rotterdam, 7 June 2018.