Between 2,500 to 4000 ant-fascist counter-demonstrators from across Europe faced off with a few hundred people attending an anti-Islamic rally in Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city.
It was supposed to be a massive anti-Islam rally attracting members of right-wing parties from across Europe in what was heralded as a "European counter-jihad meeting" to protest what they called the Islamization of Europe.
However, police said about 200 to 300 people from Denmark, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Poland took part in the protest. They were met by a 10-times larger counter-demonstration by left- wing groups under the banner "Aarhus for Diversity."
Despite a rallying call to "the largest mobilisation of the far right on Danish soil since the second world war", the anti-Islam protestors were easily outnumbered by the media and onlookers, not to mention the counter-protestors.
Instead of a historic meeting for the far-right, organisers for the counter-protest described it as "the country's largest anti-fascist mobilisation in 15 years."
The anti-Islamic rally started with a moment of silence for the seven people killed by an al-Qaida-inspired gunman in France.
Among the speakers was Tommy Robinson, the head of the English Defense League, a far-right group that has staged rowdy protests in Britain, and has inspired smaller offshoots in a number of European countries.
Both demonstrations were peaceful until a group of black-clad, mask-wearing youth from the counter-demonstration tried to break through police lines, but officers in riot gear held them back.
After the rally finished, protesters hurled rocks and bottles at a bus carrying the far-right sympathizers as police vans escorted it out of the city center.
The defense leagues and other anti-Islam groups that have sprung up in Europe in recent years distance themselves from neo-Nazis and say they don't accept racism or anti-Semitism. Opponents say they are just a new manifestation of xenophobia in Europe, targeting Muslims instead of Jews.
Anders Behring Breivik, the anti-Muslim Norwegian gunman who confessed to slaughtering 77 people last July, cited the English Defense League and other counter-jihadist groups in the anti- Muslim manifesto he released before the killing spree. Those groups have condemned his actions and dismissed him as a lunatic.
The counter-demonstrators also came from across Europe and represented Eurpoeans of all faiths and persuasions.
Linolkken traveled from Norway to join the counter-demonstration in Aarhus, 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Copenhagen, saying she felt compelled to stand up against the far-right movement after what her own country had gone through with Breivik's attacks.
"The English Defense League, Danish Defense League, the Stop Islamization of Europe â we have experienced what their ideology means in practice," she said.
"80 arrested after anti-Islam protest in Denmark" The Associated Press March 31, 2012
"Far right militants fail to strike blow against Islam on their Danish awayday" The Guardian March 31, 2012
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today