On August 4, far-right anti-Islam fringe but vocal groups from across Europe and the United States staged a rally in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, which attracted only 200 people, according to Reuters news agency while the Associated Press put the numbers to 100 only.

This was the second flopped rally of the Euro-US far-right groups. On March 31, 2011,

an anti-Islam gathering in Denmark’s second city, Aarhus, had attracted fewer than 200 supporters compared with thousands of counter demonstrators.

Reuters said the Stockholm rally by European and U.S. far-right groups seeking to create a global “counter-jihad” movement attracted fewer than 200 people 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.

Reuters pointed out that the far-right rally was organized by groups including the English Defense League (EDL) which gained international attention through the Norwegian anti-Islam fanatic (read terrorist) Anders Behring Breivik, who massacred 77 people in Norway a year ago and who referred to the EDL admiringly in his manifesto on the Internet.

In February 2012, the British newspaper, Independent, quoted Weyman Bennett, spokesman for pressure group Unite Against Fascism, as saying: ” We should not forget that it was the Norwegian Defense League that gave us [Anders] Brevik. The growth of a Euro-league in a time of economic crisis threatens to resurrect fascist street armies such as those that destroyed European democracies in the 1930s. The development of this network allows fascists and right-wing populists to share ideas, finance and experience in a way that should worry us all.”

The English Defence League was founded in 2009 by Stephen Lennon, who also calls himself Tommy Robinson. Not surprisingly, the EDL leader Tommy Robinson as well as US anti-Muslim bloggers and co-founders of   Stop Islamization of America, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller participated in the rally. Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller were also major supporters of this rally.

Nottingham University’s Matthew Goodwin, an expert on British far-right militant groups, was quoted by AP as saying that 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.”

“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,” the EDL leader told Reuters on the sidelines of the Stockholm rally.

However, one expert said the low turnout for the rally underscored the weakness and isolation of the European defense leagues, which are fashioned after the EDL, which remains their strongest and most organized unit. “It represents a failure for the English Defense League to broaden out into a European-wide movement,” said Arun Kundnani, a fellow of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague.

Far-right rallies across Europe

Stockholm rally was not the first to gather anti-Islam groups in Europe. Across Europe, far-right politicians have accelerated their rhetoric against Muslim minorities in recent years.

In 2010 the EDL and other groups held a rally in Amsterdam in support of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, who was in court accused of insulting religious and ethnic groups.

In Britain, far-right groups like the English Defense League and the British National Party are playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.

In the Netherlands, far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders called for banning the Muslim face-veil in the Netherlands and stopping immigration from Muslim countries. In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats unveiled plans to impose a moratorium on building new mosques in the Scandinavian country.

New groups were also appearing in Denmark after English Defense League leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon held the inaugural meeting of a Europe-wide network of defense leagues in Oslo recently.

Another group, Women Against Islamization, was founded in Belgium last month whose launch was addressed by Jackie Cook, the wife of BNP leader Nick Griffin.

Not surprisingly, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, posted a blog in October 2010 about how European Muslims are stigmatised by populist rhetoric. “European countries appear to face another crisis beyond budget deficits – the disintegration of human value. One symptom is the increasing expression of intolerance towards Muslims. Opinion polls in several European countries reflect fear, suspicion and negative opinions of Muslims and Islamic culture,” he wrote in a powerful indictment.

It is economy not religion

In Europe–western civilization’s heartland–hate movements are once again on the march, according to the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center report of June 2012. The report, titled European extremist movements, said from the UK and France, to Norway and Sweden, to Germany and Austria, to Spain and Greece, to Hungary and Poland and Ukraine and Russia, the resurgence of extremist movements is a common theme with variations.

History teaches us again and again that societies, which are oblivious to the past, are destined for disaster, the report warned and added: “A generation after Auschwitz, Hitler’s aura still looms. New generations of Europeans are targeted by the siren song of extremist movements on both the right and the left that distort and deny history in the name of destructive visions of the future rooted in hatred. In today’s “post-modern” Europe, the continent’s oldest disease–Jew hatred–is metastasizing.”

The rising tide of hate crimes across Europe during the last decade–four times as likely to target Jews as Muslims–demonstrates the inextricable connection of prejudicial beliefs and anti-Semitic behavior, the Simon Center report went on to say. “Equally disturbing are the convergence of extreme right and left around an anti-Semitic political agenda, and the internationalizing of hate movements in transnational alliances.”

At the same time, a German think tank, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Forum Berlin, has warned that particularly in times of crisis, right-wing extremists and right-wing populists in many places are trying to use the fears of European citizens to promote their “cause” by providing simple answers to complex social challenges. “As a result, not only were 29 right-wing representatives elected to the European Parliament in 2009, but in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria and Eastern Europe, too, they scored in national elections with slogans of scapegoatism and exclusion.”

The 2011 report titled ” Right-wing extremism and right-wing populism in Europe,” pointed out that analyses of right-wing extremism and right-wing populism in different countries show that the radical right appeals to those on the losing side of current social processes. “Be it the British National Party, the Progress Party, or the Danish People’s Party : the target groups always comprise people who are, in the course of economic and social processes of change, threatened by losses in terms of labor, income, prestige, access to education and leisure time. The main target groups in Western Europe are therefore people from the lower and lower middle class.”