Muslim graves desecrated as Austria swings to the right

Police have blamed far-right extremists for the desecration of a Muslim cemetery in the town of Traun, near Linz, in the same weekend that political parties of the Far Right made huge gains in the Austrian general election.

More than 90 graves were severely damaged at some point between Friday night and yesterday. The perpetrators sprayed Jewish symbols such as the Star of David on some of the graves but detectives believe that this may have been an attempt to disguise the motives of far-right extremists driven by a hatred of Muslim immigrants.

A spokesman for the local Muslim community said that it was deeply shocked at the news of the desecration, which comes as the religious month of Ramadan nears its end.

Austria is embarking on a round of soul-searching after its swing to the right in the parliamentary elections. Polls and analysis conducted immediately after the vote, which established the Far Right as the country’s second-strongest political bloc, indicate that the change was brought about by predominately young voters who are concerned about their future in the European Union.

The two far-right parties that captured almost 30 per cent of the vote, the Freedom Party and the Alliance for the Future of Austria, have campaigned on a vehemently anti-immigration ticket and some of their slogans were deemed xenophobic by critics.

Heinz-Christian Strache, the head of the Freedom Party – which won more than 18 per cent of the vote – campaigned against headscarves and burkas and expressed his opposition to foods seen as being related to Islam.

At his final rally, in Vienna, he spoke of a “European brotherhood” to prevent the rise of Islam. Both parties seek to ban the building of mosques and minarets, arguing that they are political symbols of the “Islamisation” of Austria and Europe.

The Times, 29 September 2008

The suggestion that the graffiti was intended “to disguise the motives of far-right extremists” is unconvincing. The traditionally antisemitic European far right is now moving towards a pro-Israel position, and on the basis of a common hatred of Muslims it has even won the support of a small section of the Jewish community. The reference to “Kadim” – the name of an Israeli Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank, which was evacuated in 2005 after being attacked by Palestinian militants – suggests that Zionist extremists may well have been responsible for desecrating the graves.