The man acting as official spokesman for the Pegida UK group confessed to spreading hate through a Facebook page he ran called “Ban Islam”, claimed there are no peaceful Muslims and has social media ties to the far-right.
Matthew Pope has been giving interviews as the official spokesman of Pegida UK, ahead of the first planned demonstration by the anti-Muslim group in England on 28 February, which started in Germany and has drawn thousands to the streets in both in support of and against it.
Pegida, whose full German name is translated as Patriotic Europeans Against The Islamisation Of The West, saw 25,000 turn up to one of its rallies in Dresden.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the group is “full of prejudice, a chilliness, even hatred”. Pegida is part of a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment across Europe, which has seen the rise of the National Front in France and neo-Nazis in Greece.
Pope told the Newcastle Chronicle that Pegida UK chose Newcastle over London for the first UK protest, planned for the end of February, because “there are a lot of right-wing extremists there and we wouldn’t want to associate ourselves with them”.
And he said the group is only protesting against extreme forms of Islam, rather than against Muslims as a whole. But Pope’s personal Facebook accounts are littered with broad anti-Muslim sentiment and suggestions of support for the far-right in the UK.
Supporters of the Pegida movement march with German flags at another of their weekly gatherings in Dresden(Getty)
Among the Facebook pages he likes are Paul Golding, who is leader of far-right Britain First party; Britain First; the British National Party (BNP); the English Defence League (EDL); and Anti-Islam (England Division).
In December 2014, Pope, who is a devout Christian, claimed he was quitting what he called the “anti-Islam movement”.
“I have decided to leave the anti-Islam movement. I am now focusing on Jesus only. I feel the people involved in most of it are in it for the wrong reasons,” he wrote on Facebook.
“I should be promoting Father’s kingdom instead to promoting hatred (even though that was never my intent).
“I confess that I spread hate through ‘Ban Islam’ with over 90,000 followers, I should have been more responsible.
“After my walk with Christ started, I tried educating about Islam through ‘Islam, Deceiver’, but I can see there is too much hatred from people to continue my work.”
However, he has since continued to post anti-Muslim notes on his Facebook pages and is now involved in promoting Pegida. In January, Pope returned to the “anti-Islam movement”, but decried the nationalism of far-right groups like Britain First because it is a distraction from fighting Islam.
“I support the anti-Islamic movement. But I do not support groups that emphasise the patriotism. Any group that deliberately draws attention away from the real issue (Islam) is going to fail,” he wrote.
“You, like the EDL and Britain First, are just going to be labelled as racist bigots. It’s the price for being nationalist. Until people ditch the patriotic side of things the general public will only label you as racist.
“The problem is not the terrorists. Policing, governments and [the] army will control that. It is the moderate Muslims that need to be exposed.
“And I am afraid all the St George’s crosses and skinheads can’t solve that. Making the moderate Muslims drop their guard and show Islam’s true intent is a game of intellect.”