The far-right political groups „Pro Deutschland“ (pro Germany) and „Freiheit“ (freedom) are planning two anti-Islam events in Berlin. Pro Deutschland is planning on holding what they call an „Anti-Islamicisation Congress“ at the end of August. They expect around 1000 participants, amongst others members of the Belgian right-wing Vlaams Belang and the Austrian FPÖ. As the highlight of the event, Pro Deutschland has organized a demonstration, moving from Berlin’s „Potsdamer Platz“ to the „Brandenburger Tor“. The political party „Freiheit“ is planning an Anti-Islam event scheduled only a week later. They invited various speakers, amongst others the Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders. Various associations and parties have already announced their protest against these events. In particular in light of recent events in Norway, they consider such plans to be a crude provocation.
15-16 February 2011
A verdict has been passed in the case of the controversial “Islam Seminar” taught at the party academy of the right-way Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ). Judge Bettina Neubauer dismissed the charge of hate speech, however has fined the presenter of the seminar 480 Euros for denigrating and slandering Islam, due to the instructor’s insinuation that the prophet Mohammed was a pedophile. The defense has announced its intention to appeal the ruling.
Furthermore, the Office of the Federal Chancellor announced the following day that it would be withholding 1045.45 Euros from the FPÖ’s party academy budget during the next round of funding for the party institutes. The Office of the Chancellor had calculated this to be the amount spent by the FPÖ’s party academy for the funding of the controversial “Islam Seminar.”
9 February 2011
ATIB, the “Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria,” is a favorite target for anti-Islam activists in Austria. The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) maintains that the goal of ATIB is to spread Turkish values and the Qur’an in Austria, while local activists such as the spokesperson for the Dammstraße anti-mosque initiative Hannelore Schuster believe that “naturally” there are Islamists active within ATIB, and that the goal of the Turkish state is to use ATIB to promote the domination of Europe by Islam.
Cengiz Günay of the Austria Institute for International Politics agrees ATIB is “definitely not independent” of the Turkish state, however he says that it represents a more moderate form of Islam, and that there are no “underground currents attempting to invade Austria.” Günay in general refutes the idea that Islamic centers promote parallel societies in Austria: “they exist already,” he says, due mainly to the fact that Turkish migrants occupy the lowest level of the social ladder.
31 October 2010
The rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe is discussed in this interview with the Austrian political scientist Reinhold Gärtner. In Gärtner’s opinion, Muslims and Islam have come to be the main scapegoats in many European countries, just as Jews or Roma have been in the past. The juxtaposition of criminality, immigration, and Muslims appeals to peoples’ fears, though there is certainly a limit to this appeal.
Nonetheless, there is no single recipe for dealing with these parties. In Switzerland and Italy, integrating them into the government seems to have worked to a certain degree. Meanwhile, the case of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and its spell in government shows how this participation can also fail, as the party finds that the easy solutions which it preaches do not exist.
13 October 2010
Following the success of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in the recent Viennese elections, Erich Kocina calls on Austrian Muslims to become more involved in Austrian politics. Nonetheless, he warns that this participation must not be seen as encouraging Turkish or Muslim individuals to represent exclusively Turkish or Muslim interests, as suggested by the president of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) Anas Schakfeh. Headscarf-wearing conservative candidates do have a right to be part of the political process; however, that which is currently lacking is more secular candidates, who should and be perceived as Austrians first, and as Muslims second, and represent interests across the political spectrum.
10-14 October 2010
Campaigning almost exclusively on an anti-Islam and anti-immigration platform, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has succeeded in augmenting their standing by 10% and attracting over a quarter of all voters in Vienna – a height not seen since Jörg Haider had achieved the same scores in 1996 in Vienna and in 1999 on the national level.
According to Barbara Coudenhouve-Kalergi and Cyrill Stieger, immigration has emerged from this election as the most important issue for Austrian voters, and given that there will be no further elections until 2013, the government now has an opportunity to concretely address the issue, hopefully under a SPÖ-Green coalition. Other commentators point to a growing Europe-wide phenomenon, in which right-way extremist politicians have managed to mobilize populist support around a general theme of Islamophobia, whether in Sweden, the Netherlands, France, or in Austria. In an opinion piece for Der Standard Heidi Glück, the spokesperson for former Austrian president Wolfgang Schüssel, also highlighted the efficacy of focusing on one single theme as the FPÖ had done, and the general inability for the SPÖ to come up with a plausible plan to support integration.
According to FPÖ politician Johann Gudenus, the FPÖ distinguishes clearly between Islam and Islamism. Though he has respect for the former, Gudenus sees a tendency for radicalization among Muslims which often hides behind the idea of religious freedom, while it encourages to sharia law, oppresses women, and gives rise to political Islam.
7 October 2010
In front of a crowd of 1500 supporters and 300 counter-demonstrators, the leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache, ended his campaign for the Viennese elections with a rally in front of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Strache spent most of his time attacking the Social-Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) and its candidate, the incumbent mayor of Vienna Michael Häupl, whom he criticized for his proximity with Islam. The SPÖ has too many candidates with Islamic background on their lists, said Strache, while he went on to attack the headscarf, “racism” against “ethnic Austrians,” and the number of foreigners in the country.
3 October 2010
In an interview with Die Presse, Omar Al-Rawi, a Social Democratic (SPÖ) politician and Integration spokesperson for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ), stated that more mosques are not needed in Vienna, though many need to be renovated or relocated. According to Al-Rawi, Muslims could also “tip the scales” in the upcoming elections, and many may be more motivated now following the aggressive anti-Islamic campaign that the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has pursued.
There are believed to be 200 000 eligible voters in Vienna who have a migratory background. According to studies from June 2010 by the public opinion research institutes IFES and TrendCom, immigrants with a Turkish background are heavily pro-SPÖ (78%), while immigrants from the former Yugoslavia also on the whole support the SPÖ (56%). Nonetheless, FPÖ-leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s aggressive campaigning amongst immigrants of Serbian background has borne its fruits: 27% of eligible voters from the former Yugoslavia are now supporters of the FPÖ.
28 September 2010
The former leader of the Styrian branch of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), Leopold Schöggl, has called the anti-Islam strategy used by the FPÖ as “not decisive” for the FPÖ’s success in the recent Styrian elections. In Schöggl’s opinion, it was especially federal-level politics which led to a backlash against the main parties, as well as large numbers of votes from neglected youth and a return of protest votes from the Communist party. According to Schöggl, though the anti-Islam rhetoric was not the main factor, he nevertheless admitted that it was a cunning election strategy.
26 September 2010
Despite the legal proceedings begun by the state prosecutor concerning an anti-minaret video game used by the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) during the recent Styrian election campaign, the FPÖ has not suffered any negative backlash. To the contrary: the FPÖ received almost 11% of the vote in the recent elections, and have consequently gained a seat in the state legislature. Another indication of the success of the anti-Islam strategy could been seen by a present the Styrian FPÖ leader, Gerhard Kurzmann, recently received from two deeply pious Christians: a magnificently adorned cross, placed in a blue case [the FPÖ’s official colour is blue].