August 4, 2012 / 6:14 PM / in 7 years

Sweden "counter-jihad" rally outnumbered by anti-racists

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Stockholm rally by European and U.S. far-right groups seeking to create a global “counter-jihad” movement attracted fewer than 200 people on Saturday who were outnumbered by anti-racist protesters.

Police said the rival demonstration was kept apart from the far-right rally and drew a few hundred people, a small number of whom were detained.

The far-right rally was organized by groups including the English Defence League (EDL) which has been a driving force behind a handful of similar events, most recently a Danish rally in March.

The EDL gained international attention through anti-Islamic fanatic Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway a year ago and who referred to it admiringly in a manifesto on the Internet. The group has denied links to Breivik.

Support has grown in European countries for populist, nationalist and anti-immigration movements and in Sweden the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats won seats in parliament for the first time in 2010.

However, previous attempts by European far-right groups to join forces have foundered amid splits and feuding over ideology and leadership.

Nottingham University’s Matthew Goodwin, an expert on British far-right militant groups, said the Stockholm meeting was of strategic importance despite the modest turnout.

“The attending are quite significant figures within the anti-jihad movement. It signifies the strengthening links between counter-jihad groups and anti-Muslim groups within Europe and the United States,” he said.

EDL leader Stephen Lennon, who also calls himself Tommy Robinson and who founded the group three years ago, said the meeting was about sharing resources and coordinating strategies. {ID:nL6E8FK5XL]

“It’s about sharing ideology, sharing resources, work together in any way we can over the next 12 months in order to highlight the truth, the truth about Islam,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Stockholm rally.

Pamela Geller, a leader of groups Stop Islamization of Nations and Stop Islamization of America, said the movement was planning to hold a conference in New York on September 11.

“It’s very important that it goes global because what we are fighting is a global ideology,” she said.

Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; Editing by Sophie Hares

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