Fighting an islamic centre in Vienna’s Floridsdorf

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.

Swiss Help against Mosques

Following a heated debate in April in the municipal council between the mayor Siegfried Nagl and right-wing parties over the construction of a mosque for Turkish Muslims, the issue has quieted down. However in anticipation of provincial elections coming up in September, the far-right Austria Freedom Party (FPÖ) has decided to play on the issue to gain more votes. In preparation they have recruited Alexander Segert, the German-born marketing mastermind of the recent Swiss “Anti-minaret campaign.”

Swiss Help against Mosques

Following a heated debate in April in the municipal council between the mayor Siegfried Nagl and right-wing parties over the construction of a mosque for Turkish Muslims, the issue has quieted down. However in anticipation of provincial elections coming up in September, the far-right Austria Freedom Party (FPÖ) has decided to play on the issue to gain more votes. In preparation they have recruited Alexander Segert, the German-born marketing mastermind of the recent Swiss “Anti-minaret campaign.”

(Covering both Graz and the above story on the Citizen’s Initiative – Rappgasse)

Far-right leader strache building bridges to islam

Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), has proclaimed his respect for the Turkish community and Islam during a meeting with the Turkish ambassador, Kadri Ecvet Tezcan. After having praised Turks in Austria as “hard-workers,” Strache called Turkey an “outstanding country which Austrians love to visit,” and stated that the many Islamic places of worship in Austria were a matter of course, and that through dialogue many prejudices could be countered. For his comments, Strache was presented with Islamic prayer beads as a gift by Tezcan, which Strache accepted before rolling cameras. Turkish-language newspapers in Austria have stated they are now “curious to see Strache’s future behavior towards Turks and Islamic,” following these moderate statements.

Every second Austrian sees Islam as a threat

(Martina Salomon)

According to a recent study by the research institute IMAS, 54 percent of Austrians believe that Islam is a “danger to the West.” Furthermore, those questioned for the study increasingly have the feeling that they cannot speak about such views in public. The study was commissioned by the International Institute for Liberal Politics, and has been made exclusively available to Die Presse.

The study found that only 4 percent would be comfortable if a family member married a Muslim, while this was in fact already the case for 3 percent, and much more common in Vienna. The minaret question was also included, with 59 percent “rather against,” while 51 percent responded that the construction of mosques in general as well as the wearing of Islamic headscarves should be prohibited.

72 percent of Austrians criticized the lack of willingness of Muslims to integrate into Austria society (Green Party supporters were the exception, at 38 percent), and 61 percent agreed that “Austria is a Christian country and should remain so.” 42 percent went further, opining that “the less foreigners, the better.” Not surprisingly, the followers of the FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) were most supportive (76 percent), while this radical view was also shared by 39 percent of Socialist (SPÖ) supporters and 37 percent of Christian Democrats (ÖVP).

Only Green Party supporters went against this trend. While merely one out of every fourteen Green supporters was opposed to the construction of minarets, only approximately a quarter believed that Austria should remain a Christian country. In addition, almost half of the Green supporters believe that immigration is an economic and social benefit for Austria, a view shared by only 15 percent of Socialists, 16 percent of Christian Democrats, and merely 5 percent of the FPÖ-BZÖ camp.

The study also found a rise of 10 percent (from 14 percent to 24 percent) of those who believe that it is better not to speak of such topics in public, leading the IMAS-researchers to conclude that there is are “flagrant contradictions between public and private opinions.”

A large majority (71 percent) believe Islam to be incompatible with Western ideas of democracy, freedom, and tolerance. Erich Reiter, who commissioned the study and is director of the Institute for Liberal Politics, stated that “from a liberal perspective Islam is perceived as a threat for our society. Politicians should take this seriously and react accordingly.”

Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they believed either in a biblical God (25 percent) or in a “spiritual power above us” (34%). However, when it comes to children’s education Christian beliefs come in next to last (followed only by “European ethos”). The most important values to promote in education were “independent thinking and acting,” reflecting as well the self-identification of the majority of those polled, who counted themselves among “people, for whom freedom and independence have great importance” (63 percent).

After attacks on Islam, FPÖ candidate must go

Following a number of anti-Islamic comments in online forums, a politician for the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in the Bludenz district of west-Austrian state of Vorarlberg has been removed from the local electoral list. Karl Mayrhofer had written that Islam was a “degenerate and depraved ideology,” which cost him both his party membership as well as his candidacy in the upcoming local elections.

Joachim Weixlbaumer, leader of the FPÖ municipal faction, stressed that he had made clear from the very beginning that the above mentioned comments were unacceptable, and they had received no support from the rest of the local faction either. Though the removal of Mayrhofer from the list was the logical conclusion, Weixlbaumer pointed out that this incident changes nothing with regard to the massive problems in Bludenz that exist concerning the parallel society of the local Turkish-origin population.

Council broods over funds for “Islam seminars”

The Grants Council of the Party Academies has not yet reached a definitive conclusion with respect to the controversial “Anti-Islam Seminars” of the FPÖ Educational Institute. The members of the council decided first to consult more information concerning the debated seminars, while a motion by the Greens demanding the return payment of funds used for the seminars was not passed. Klaus Nittmann, director of the FPÖ Educational Institute stated “that the debate in the council has not been objective. Of course we represent a critical perspective with regard to Islam, but the Greens are solely interested in making us repay these funds.”

Islamophobia in Austria (3:42)

Abendland in Christenhand (The West is Christian) is the slogan the FPÖ, the Austrian Freedom Party, is using for the European elections. But many Austrians don’t find the slogan Christian at all, and are distancing themselves from the mayhem surrounding it. The Kitzbühel tourism board is alarmed too. They’ve invested a lot of money in advertising to Islamic countries, and the tourists feel the placards are insulting. The city council finds itself in the hot seat.

Islam-bashing fails to boost support for Austria’s rightists

City council elections in the south-eastern Austrian city of Graz on Sunday failed to result in significant support for a local candidate for the far-right Freedom Party (FP) who had lashed out against Islam in a highly controversial campaign. The top-seeded FP candidate Susanne Winter scored only moderate wins for the party just days after she called the Muslim prophet Mohammed a “child molester” and called for Islam to be pushed “back where it belonged, beyond the Mediterranean Sea. Mohammed’s marriage to a six-year-old girl would make the prophet a paedophile in today’s system, the lawmaker had told a rally. Voters in Graz, however, seemed only moderately impressed by Winter’s Islam-bashing. Official results showed the FP gained 3.1 per cent, but remained below expectations with 11.1 per cent. Various polls had showed the party would score between 10 and 13 per cent. Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache said the FP had reached their goal of getting into the double digits. Winter pursued her campaign “in the face of strong antagonism, defamation and scandalous threats of violence against her,” he was quoted as saying by the Austrian press agency. Winter’s remarks were followed by a public outcry and triggered an intensive debate about Islamophobia in Austria. According to political analysts, the FP’s anti-Muslim campaign was a calculated gambit to appeal both to a radically xenophobe fringe among Austria’s electorate as well as those alienated by immigration. The Islam-bashing turned out a “non-starter” for the rightists, with the conservative People’s Party and the Greens benefiting instead, analyst Wolfgang Bachmayer told the public broadcaster ORF.

Death threat against FPÖ politician justifies her attack on Islam

FP_ General Secretary Harald Vilimsky said Wednesday that the Islamic death threat against Graz FP_ politician Susanne Winter had justified her Sunday attack on Islam. Winter had claimed at the FP_’s New Year’s meeting in Graz six days before the municipal election there that the prophet Mohammed had been “a child molester” and written the Koran during “epileptic fits.” A death threat against Winter claiming to be from European Al-Qaeda appeared on the internet on Monday. The head of her party’s list in the January 20 municipal election, she has subsequently received protection from members of the elite Cobra security force. Vilimsky added that the FP_ was awaiting “a clear response” to the death threat from Austrian President Heinz Fischer and SP_ Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer. The party general secretary declared that he would not distance himself from Winter’s remarks and that Austria needed a tougher policy against radical Islam.