Recent activities of far-Right groups targeting the building of mosques in the UK mirrors events elsewhere in Europe.
At the beginning of 2007, the European extreme Right formed a new bloc in the European parliament called Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) to protect ‘Christian values’ and ‘Europe’s traditional heritage’. In the build-up to European parliamentary elections in 2009, ITS-linked parties (as well as extreme-Right parties not represented) are calling for a ban on the construction of mosques and minarets on the grounds that Europe’s heritage must be protected from ‘Islamisation’. Already the scene has turned ugly in Austria where Jörg Haider called for the Austrian Constitution to be amended to prohibit the construction of minarets.
There are two extreme-Right parties in Austria: the Freedom Party (FPÖ, led by Heinz Christian-Strache) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ, led by Jörg Haider). In June, both parties initiated a parliamentary debate about the threat mosques and minarets posed to the ‘ambience’ of Austrian towns which needed to be protected against ‘the danger of creeping Islamisation’. Since then, the Austrian Islamic Faith Community has experienced an increase in the number of threatening phone calls it receives. Its integration spokesman Omar Al Rawi believes this has coincided with broadsides from Austrian politicians and dignatories against Islam and its visible symbols.
Some examples of this inflated rhetoric – by no means all linked to the extreme Right – include:
- ‘No Crescent Moon over Bad Vöslau!’ (Slogan used by the FPÖ in a campaign against the construction of a mosque in the town of Bad Vöslau in June 2007.)
- ‘As long as Christians have to hide themselves in Islamic countries, Muslims should not build Mosques which dominate town’s skylines in countries like ours.’ (Egon Kapellari Bishop of Graz, 25/8/07.)
- ‘As a result of these measures Carinthia will become a pioneer in the battle against radical Islam and for the protection of our western Leitkultur.’ (Remarks made by Jörg Haider in a speech regarding his proposals to ban mosques and minarets in Carinthia. 26/8/07.)
- ‘We certainly prefer the chiming of church bells to the call of the Muezzin.’ (Haider, 27/8/07)
- ‘I oppose erecting mosques and minarets as centres to advertise the power of Islam.’ (Haider 27/8/07)
- ‘Minarets are something alien to our way of life and things which are alien to us do not do a culture any good in the long run.’ (Erwin Pröll, Conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) Governor of Lower Austria, 3/9/07.)
The BZÖ and the FPÖ seem to be in competition as to which can be the most openly Islamophobic. Both call for new legislation to ban the construction of minarets but the FPÖ also wants the legislation to stipulate that ‘non-occidental religions’ use German as the language in which they hold religious ceremonies in Austria. In Carinthia, where Haider is state premier, the BZÖ wants to amend planning laws to ensure a town’s mayor must consider ‘religious and cultural tradition’ in considering any request for the construction of mosques or minarets. Haider’s warning against the ‘Islamisation’ of Carinthia’s traditional skyline would be laughable if it were not for the fact that Carinthia’s Muslim community, now isolated and vulnerable, lives in the shadow of Haider’s McCarthyite-style campaign. An estimated 2 per cent of Carinthia’s population are Muslim. ‘We don’t know of any mosque plans’ in Carinthia. ‘His move is meaningless, populist, racist and anti-Islamic’, Omar al-Rawi told journalists.