PRAGUE (AP) — Europe’s far-right political leaders campaigned Thursday in Prague, calling migration and Islam major threats to Europe as they sought to rally support ahead of the European Parliament elections next month.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Rally party and Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch anti-Islam Party for Freedom, were the main draws for hundreds at downtown Wenceslas Square. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s hard-line interior minister and leader of the anti-migrant League party, sent a video message.
They attended a rally of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, the Czech member of the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom.
All the far-right politicians denounced migration and Islam, linking them to terror attacks and criticizing the current European Union. They vowed their alliance would seek a radical change in how Europe is run.
“The battle of Europe has begun,” Le Pen announced. “Long live a Europe of sovereign nations.”
She said the EU is to blame for flooding Europe with migrants who threaten to destroy the European nations.
Wilders, meanwhile, called the EU an undemocratic superstate that has been attempting “to erase our nation states.”
“Today, we’re fighting for our existence,” Wilders said.
“Islam is a medieval cult that denies freedom to others,” he said. “Islam and freedom are not compatible.”
“We don’t want Islam here!” the crowd repeatedly chanted.
The rally was disrupted by protesters, who were pushed aside by riot police. Police said 10 people were detained but no one was injured.
Political experts say the May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament, which take place in the EU’s 28 nations, could prove to be a tipping point in post-war European politics. Traditional political powerhouses on both the right and the left are expected to lose support as extremist, populist parties gain more clout.
The Czech populist group is the most anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party in the Czech Republic. It has 22 seats in the country’s 200-seat lower house of Parliament.
The party wants to ban Islam, which it calls an ideology of hate. Its chairman, Tomio Okamura, is currently a deputy speaker of the house.
The Czech Republic has not been hit like other EU nations by migration into Europe and only has a small, moderate Muslim community.
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