Austrian Muslims Voice Concerns over Right-Wing Rise

VIENNA – Following the huge victory of rightist parties in general elections, Austrian Muslims are concerned over the rise of anti-Muslim rhetoric, however, they are confident the state institutions will protect them.

“I’m concerned, but not afraid”, Omar Al-Rawi, a Bagdad-born member of the Vienna’s city council, observes as the results of the snap election in Austria are relayed across the country, told Euro News.

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“To see that Austria has a majority of nearly 60% of right-wing voters is not something that would make me happy. I think anti-Muslim rhetoric will continue, but I know Austria is strong enough to manage it“, Al-Rawi adds.

Two right-wing parties, the conservative ÖVP and far-right FPÖ, both of which relied heavily on anti-Muslim rhetoric prejudice in the campaign, came first and third respectively.

The two parties are expected to form a government together.

Al-Rawi is a candidate of the left-wing SPÖ party, which despite better-than-expected results in Vienna will likely have to relinquish its hold on power.

Yet, his opinion, mixing anxiety and hope, is shared by many.

“The public mood changed in the late 1990s when politicians discovered that the Muslim issue is effective to mobilize voters”, said Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman for the Austrian Islamic Religious Authority.

“I’m not afraid either”, she admits. “I have trust in the rule of law”.

But, Baghajati is concerned about is that terrorism or the refugee crisis are being mixed up with the situation of Muslims in general.

“It should be the other way round. Those who have a longer history in Austria should be used to help to solve these problems, not labeled as enemies.”

In Austria, there are around 700,000 Muslims from a range of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

Unlike many other countries in Europe, Austria has a long history of integration with Islam.

As early as 1912 Austro-Hungarian empire formally recognized the religion within its legal system.

The Muslim community has been rooted in the nation’s society since the 1960s when workers began moving from the south and east.