Austria’s Muslim Community have spoken out against the rhetoric of the current election campaigning, calling it “hostile towards the Islam”. Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamic Community of Austria, said: “Austria’s Muslims have to endure quite a lot at the moment. A lot of what is said in this campaign is hostile towards the Islam.” Religious Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan, the Muslim religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Baghajati said: “It is worrying when hair-raisingly wrong interpretations of our religion or statements, are being used to create fear.” Baghajati refers to a claim calling the Islam the “fascism of the 21st century”. Baghajati also criticised the conservative ÖVP for being involved in passing regulations that prevent the construction of Mosques in the provinces of Carinthia and Vorarlberg. Baghajati called on all Muslims living in Austria to ballot at the general election of 28 September. Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer welcomed representatives of the Islamic Community at his offices yesterday (Wed) due to the current Ramadan celebrations. Last year, a similar event hosted by Federal President Heinz Fischer sparked controversy when media claimed that up to 28 terror suspects attended the welcome at the president’s Hofburg office.
Austria’s Muslim community continues to grow, and according to a study by the Austrian Society for International Understanding, Islam will overtake Protestantism as the country’s second-largest religious group by 2010. Christian religions had to suffer a massive decline in membership over the last 30 years, the study said. According to the 1971 census 6.49 million Austrians were Catholic. By 2006 that number had shrunk to 5.63 million. The number of Protestants went down by 120,000 to 326,000 faithful during the same period. At the same time, the number of Muslims in Austria increased 15-fold – from 22,200 in 1971 to around 400,000 in 2006, the study was quoted by DPA as saying.