VIENNA. â PEGIDA, the anti-Islam movement born in Germany, drew hundreds of supporters and counter-demonstrators to the streets of Vienna when it held its first march in neighbouring Austria on Monday.With 1 200 police officers deployed in Austriaâs capital as a precaution, around 250 marchers carrying Austrian flags and chanting âwe are the peopleâ faced off against a like number of protesters shouting âdown with PEGIDAâ.
Ranks of police in riot gear separated the two camps. A police spokesman said there had been no incidents or arrests.
Earlier, thousands of people had marched in a protest against PEGIDA.
The rally followed violent demonstrations on Friday by left-wing activists protesting against an annual ball in Vienna that traditionally draws right-wing figures.
Religious sensibilities are on the rise in Austria. The government has proposed requiring standardised German-language translations of the Koran and prohibiting foreign funding of Muslim organisations on its soil in a draft law aimed in part at tackling militants.
The initiative follows alarm over official estimates that about 170 people from Austria have joined up with Islamist militant forces fighting in the Middle East.
The sudden rise of PEGIDA â Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West â in Germany rattled that countryâs political establishment by staging rallies that brought up to 25,000 onto the streets of Dresden.
But it has fallen into disarray after five of its founding members dropped out to start a rival movement.
Georg Immanuel Nagel, a 28-year-old philosophy student from Vienna and spokesman for the Austrian offshoot, told newspaper Die Presse he wanted an end to the âappeasement policyâ for the roughly half-million Muslims who live in Austria, a traditionally Roman Catholic nation of 8.5 million. â Reuters.