Iran demands EU halt ‘anti-Islam’ congress
A conference on preventing ‘Islamification’ of Europe is planned for later this month in Cologne, Germany.
Tehran/Berlin -- The Iranian Foreign Ministry called in the French charge d'affaires in Tehran Wednesday to demand that the European Union prevent the holding of an "anti-Islam congress" in Cologne later this month.
The Foreign Ministry voiced concern about what it called the "growing anti-Islam trend" in Europe, appealing to the current French presidency of the EU to act, the official news agency IRNA reported.
The French diplomat reportedly responded by condemning all forms of racism, pledging that the Iranian request would be followed up and Tehran would be kept informed about the congress.
The congress has been called by the rightwing, Cologne-based, activist group Pro-Cologne, which last month failed in its attempts to halt the building of a large mosque in the western German city.
Pro-Cologne has called a three-day anti-Islam congress for Sept. 19-21, drawing support from the rightwing groups, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPOe) and the Belgian-Flemish Vlaams Belang Party as well as prominent French rightwing politician, Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the Front National (FN).
"The time has come to draw the line: Europe and Germany say 'no' to Islamification and immigrant invasion," the organization says in an ad for the congress on its website in German, French, Italian and English.
The congress, which culminates in a mass rally on Cologne's Haymarket square on Sept. 20, is aimed at promoting "Western values and Christian traditions." Le Pen is expected to speak.
Pro-Cologne uses as its logo a mosque with a red line drawn through it in the shape of a traffic sign.
Left-wing groups have called counter-demonstrations to coincide with the rally.
The Interior Ministry of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, within which Cologne falls, said it had looked into banning the congress but had come to the conclusion that there were insufficient grounds to do so.
The German constitution protects the freedom of assembly, Interior Ministry spokeswoman Carola Holzberg said.
Holzberg said Pro-Köln had informed police they were expecting around 1,000 supporters to attend the rally.
Police are expecting up to 40,000 to protest against the congress.
On Aug. 28, the Cologne City Council gave the green light for a controversial mosque with a dome 37 meters high and two minarets rising to 55 meters to be built in the suburb of Ehrenfeld.