27-28 September 2010
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) now seems prepared to resort to anything for the upcoming elections in Vienna. In a recent campaign advertisement the FPÖ use a quote from the well-known German feminist Alice Schwarzer; however, the FPÖ did not ask Schwarzer for her permission, while Schwarzer is not even sure that the quote is actually from her. The quote attributed to her is: “These people, the Islamists, we need to understand them as what they are – our enemies. And we must fight them politically.”
In response to the FPÖ’s actions Schwarzer wrote that she would not have allowed the FPÖ to use her in a campaign advertisement if they had asked her. While she stated that she may at some time have said something similar, she emphasized the necessity of distinguishing between Muslims and Islamists. Finally, she went on to criticize the main democratic parties in Europe for having left the theme of Islam to right-wing populists, such as the FPÖ.
24 September 2010
The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has wrapped up its election campaign in the East Styrian industrial city of Weiz with new attacks against Islam. The FPÖ top candidate, Gerhard Kurzmann, stated that the “boat is full,” and that he would rather hear church bells than the call of muezzins.
23 September 2010
In this opinion piece, Farid Hafez compares the anti-Jewish strategies that were pursued at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th and the current Islamophobic strategies of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
Aside from advocating the direct control of the sermons being preached in synagogues, right-wing parties argued for greater control of the architecture of religious building and called for the assimilation of the “unintegratable” Jews – all themes very similar to the headlines concerning Muslims today.
The last few months have also given rise to a new development: the leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, recently called the Social-Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) an “Islamist Party,” thereby echoing his predecessors who, one century ago, also warned of the “Jewishization” of the Social-Democratic Worker’s Party (SDAP).
Finally, the FPÖ has managed to revive old conspiracy fears, unveiling election placards that warn that the SPÖ is “for obligatory headscarves and thus is encouraging the oppression of women.” This all presented as operating alongside international Islamic terrorism, just as the “international Jewry” was presented as a threat one hundred years ago.
From the “Minaret-game” in Styria to the question of a minaret ban in Vienna, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has been focusing heavily on religion for its current election campaigns. For Regina Polak, religious studies scholar at Vienna University, this is characteristic of a growing trend to “religiousize” social and political conflict. Migrants become Muslims, while the Austria reaches the top position of the xenophobia-index in Europe.
In the case of the Orthodox Serbs, other political parties might try their best; none have managed yet to outmatch the FPÖ. Calling for the unity of Christians against Islam, Heinz-Christian Strache appears in campaign posters with Serbian prayer beads around his wrist, and over the years they have effectively practiced a strategy of “micro-targeting,” according to political scientist Thomas Hofer.
The Green member Alev Korun criticizes this move, and says that though she visits mosques, she does not go to pray, but to talk about the policies of the Greens. This is in direct opposition to the socialist politician, Omar Al-Rawi, who is simultaneously the integration spokesperson for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ).
Al-Rawi has been criticized for overly mixing together religion and politics, while the head of the Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, has stated his disappointment at Al-Rawi’s criticism of Israel in the recent debacle involving the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In response, Al-Rawi has said that conflict in the Middle East in an issue of politics, and not religion, and thus his attempts to condemn Israel’s actions at the level of the Viennese government has been accordingly political.
15 September 2010
Elisabeth Sabatisch-Wolff, the controversial lecturer of an FPÖ (Freedom Party of Austria) seminar on Islam, will appear in court on charges of incitation and hate speech. The public attorney’s office of Vienna has filed an official complaint against Ms. Sabatisch-Wolff, whose comments such as “Islam is evil,” “Muslims are hostile,” and that “Muslims rape their children due to their religion,” came about as part of an “Islam-seminar” at the FPÖ educational institute. The controversy surrounding her comments has led the council of ministers to discuss ways by which to force political parties to repay state funds that were allocated for their educational institutes.
The director of the institute, Klaus Nittman, has stated that he would “naturally” continue to employ Ms. Sabatisch-Wolff. While denouncing the “witch hunt against enlightened women,” Nittman warned that “legal officials must take care not to become the lackeys of the sharia.”
A former member of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) for the Vorarlberger region has been sentenced to either two years in prison or an unconditional fine of 1 200 Euros for Islamophobic comments that he had posted online. Though the man’s comments had received no support for his party, leading to his being dropping from the party’s electoral list.
In his defence, the man argued that he did not directly call for violence, though the presiding judge, Othmar Kraft, countered that the comments were clearly meant to incite. The sentencing is not yet legally binding, as the individual in question has asked for three days to reflect.
In this portrait of Vienna’s 20th district, Brigittenau is described as a region that was originally highly influenced by the large Jewish population that used to live here. Unlike nearby Leopoldstadt, however, following the deportations of the Second World War the local Jewish culture was not reestablished. Today it is a multicultural district, with 27,1% of the local population holding foreign citizenship, much higher than the Viennese average (20,1%). The population is also on average younger, and has since time immemorial been governed by the social-democrats (SPÖ).
However, the district has recently made headlines due to local opposition to a planned Islamic centre in the street Dammstrasse, for which a committee has been founded (the Bürgerinitiative Dammstrasse). The initiative has received support from the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), whose leader attended a recent demonstration. The district has seen a significant rise in support for the FPÖ during the last decades, most notably in 1996 when the party managed to reach 30% and break the SPÖ’s absolute majority for the first time.
One year ago, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) was found to have been using state funds for an educational seminar on Islam in which the religion was equated with fanaticism and extremism. During the seminar in question, entitled “The Basics of Islam,” the speaker Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was quoted as having said that “Islam is hostile. The Koran is evil. Muslims hate us and are in a long-term war with us.” As a result of this, the responsible funding council has recently decided that the FPÖ will have to pay back the funds they received for the seminar, though the final decision will come from the Council of Ministers.
Despite the sum in question being estimated at only between 1000 and 3000 Euros, Klaus Nittmann, the director of the FPÖ educational institute at which at seminar was held, has stated that the party is ready to take the case to court. According to him, more than anything it is a “matter of principle.”
The far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) has criticized the Austrian national public
broadcaster (ORF)’s documentary program, Am Schauplatz and its producers, Ed Moschitz
and Julia Kovarik, for their recent coverage of a protest against an Islamic centre in Vienna.
The documentary, entitled “The Fear mongers,” follows a pair of right-wing skinheads who
participated in the recent demonstration in Vienna’s Floridsdorf, where the leader of the FPÖ
gave a speech. Moschitz has been accused of biased reporting by the FPÖ, especially following
another report in which skinheads were to be seen attending an FPÖ rally. In response to the
party’s accusation that Moschitz had incited the youths to shout Nazi-slogans, the ORF has made
public all the raw material for the program, in which no such slogans are to be heard.
When Leopoldine Weidinger found out that the Turkish Islamic centre across the street from her was planning on renovating its interior so as to receive five hundred people a week for prayers, she decided to act. Weidinger founded the “Citizen’s initiative – Rappgasse” in an effort to halt the expansion of the centre’s activities, which in her view would permanently disturb the tranquility of the small street, comprising no more than eight house numbers. The poor conditions of the building itself has also led the building inspection department to forbid the continuation of activities therein.
Her initiative has now received a considerable degree of media attention following a rally organised against the Islamic centre on 17 June 2010. Though all political parties had been invited, the participation of far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and its leader, Heinz-Christian Strache, who thanked the “real Viennese” for having attended, as well as the presence of a number of skinheads with “Honour, freedom, fatherland” t-shirts, clearly set the tone. Bringing together between 150 and 200 people –as well as a significant police presence–, the demonstration was denounced as a flop by the nearby counter-demonstration, which clearly outnumbered the former.
The following day Weidinger attended the “Open Doors Day” at a nearby mosque in Hubertusdamm. After having respectfully asked whether she should wear a headscarf, Weidinger spoke with Omar Al-Rawi, Socialist member of the municipal council, who assured her that though “there was nothing [she] could do about it, the skinhead Nazis cheering on [FPÖ-leader] Strache wrecked everything.” Weidinger lamented that she had invited all the parties from her district, however the only one to come was the FPÖ – even then, it had not been planned that the local representative would only speak five minutes and then leave the podium for Strache.
Weidinger maintains that her initiative is not against Islam, and she says she is also supportive of having more large and representative mosques in Austria. However she complains that the Turkish association in her street (the Turkish Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria, ATIP) is not like the mosque in Hubertusdamm: consisting mostly of men who do not understand Austrian culture (or the German language), they have gone so far as to ask her to stop lying in her garden topless, as she is visible from the top floor of the Islamic centre. Despite her successful visit to the local mosque, Weidinger plans to keep on fighting.