13 September 2010
The Federal President of Austria, Heinz Fischer, has told representatives of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ), including the president Anas Schakfeh, to try and keep a “cool head” when confronted with Islamophobia. Fischer also stated his support for the democratic procedures of the IGGiÖ, and the he would not interfere. Fischer’s advice came during an evening dedicated to celebrating the end of Ramadan, a yearly event since Fischer entered office.
Schakfeh responded that “we consider this message true – we will not let ourselves be provoked.” He also reasserted the IGGiÖ’s commitment to the basic principles of the republic, though he said that some may not want to believe it.
Outspoken Austrian far-right leader Joerg Haider, who sparked international outrage with comments praising Nazi policies, died on Saturday when his car veered off the road. Haider, 58, suffered serious head and chest injuries when his car flipped over several times and died en route to hospital, police said. Tributes were paid by Austrian politicians of all sides despite his notoriety. Haider grabbed international attention after his anti-immigration, anti-EU party won more than a quarter of the vote in a 1999 general election and became part of the government. The governor of Carinthia province and leader of the Alliance for Austria’s Future (BZOe) party was driving his official car on a road south of the provincial capital, Klagenfurt, when the accident happened. He had just overtaken another vehicle when his car came off the road for unknown reasons, according to police quoted by the APA news agency. Haider was to have attended a family celebration Saturday for his mother’s 90th birthday. “For us this is the end of the world,” BZOe deputy leader Stefan Petzner said. Austria’s President Heinz Fischer called Haider a “politician of great talent” who had “aroused enthusiasm but also strong criticism”.
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.
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.