Anger as racist signboards erected close to Vienna mosques
Racist signboards have been erected in many locations close to mosques in the Austrian capital Vienna, members of the country's Islamic community said.
Following the appearance of the controversial "Islam map," signboards with images depicting a man with beard and skullcap and reading "Attention: Political Islam is nearby. See Islam Map for further info" started to appear in recent days.
According to a statement by Islamic Religious Authority in Austria (IGGiO) on Wednesday, the signboards expose many mosques to attacks.
The "Islam map", which shares detailed information of the country's Muslims and their institutions, should be canceled before it causes more provocation and danger, the statement said.
On the other hand, various media outlets in the country reported that anti-Islam signboards might have been erected by the racist group "Identitarian," which advocates a pan-European nationalist far-right political ideology.
Austrian Integration Ministry launched an Internet website called the "National Map of Islam" last week with the names and locations of more than 620 mosques, associations and officials.
Chancellor Kurz's far-right agenda
Many Muslims feel stigmatised and their security threatened by the publication of addresses and other details amid growing Islamophobia in Austria.
Austrian Muslims are deeply concerned over ongoing attempts by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to instrumentalise Islam for his far-right agenda.
Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab Tuesday defended the contentious "Islam map" amid mounting criticism within the country's Muslim community.
"This is by no means a general suspicion of Muslims. It's about the common struggle against political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism," Raab told the German WELT newspaper.
Islamic Religious Community in Austria, which represents the interests of roughly 800,000 Muslims in Austria, warned against stigmatising all Muslims living in that country "as a potential danger to society and the democratic legal order in the country."
'There could be attacks on Islamic institutions'
Meanwhile, the German Central Council of Muslims also sharply criticised the Austrian government for launching a controversial digital "Islam map", calling it "irresponsible".
“With battle cries like 'Political Islam' and such actions, anti-Muslim racists and religious extremists will be strengthened at the same time, while millions of Muslims are put under general suspicion,” Aiman Mazyek, head of the council, told the WAZ newspaper.
"The loser of such irresponsible actions is democracy and the values of our free society in Europe,” he added.
Reacting to the ongoing controversy, a leading Austrian political scientist, Prof. Heinz Gaertner, of Vienna University told Anadolu Agency that this map is “discriminating” against Muslims.
Merkel's party support the map
Gaertner warned of what he called “vigilante justice” against Muslims in Austria.
“It is only a matter of time before there will be violent attacks on Islamic institutions,” he said.
“Such public labeling of certain groups was always the beginning and the basis of humiliation, even persecution,” Gaertner added.
Meanwhile, Germany’s co-ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party of Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for the disputed initiative of the Austrian government.
"We don't need any artificial outrage about the Austrian map of political Islam. We need a serious debate on how to deal with Islamist extremism in Germany," Thomas Strobl, interior minister of the southern Baden-Wurttemberg state, told the daily WAZ.