When we hear the term “Islamic world,” certain regions may come to mind, but Islam is, in essence, the final message to all of humanity. As a result, Muslims live in different lands, among different populations. Unfortunately, in some countries, there is a growing trend of hostility towards Islam and Muslims, and Austria is one such country. How do the Muslims living in Austria combat this increasing hatred? In our series on those fighting Islamophobia, today we focus on Austria.
According to data from Dokustelle Wien (the Documentation Center for Anti-Muslim Hostility and Racism), the hostility towards Muslims has significantly increased since 2015. Among the numerous factors triggering Islamophobia, the most influential has been political developments. Ever since the ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) became part of the government and made oppositional statements against Muslims, we have witnessed a rise in public animosity. The excessive coverage of Muslim-related news in the media, surpassing national issues, has also contributed to this unease.
Headscarves, Muslim children attending Islamic preschools, and the increasing number of refugees are some of the topics covered in the media. Such reports have fueled growing Islamophobia both in social life and the virtual world. The annual reports of the Documentation Center for Anti-Muslim Hostility and Racism confirm this reality.
In 2015, the center recorded 158 reported cases, while in 2020, this number rose to 1402. According to the reports, hostility manifests in various ways: open incitement, insults, threats, material damage, unjust treatment in the business world, and allocation to disadvantaged positions.
The Struggle of Austrian Muslims
In Austria, efforts against Islamophobia and racism are underway with the assistance of various organizations and individual initiatives. The reports from the Islamophobia and Racism Documentation Center, as mentioned earlier, validate the struggle of Muslims by providing data, thereby encouraging investments in institutions.
Prominent figures in this endeavor include the political scientist Dr. Farid Hafez, who publishes the annual Austria Islamophobia report with the support of the SETA Foundation. Another individual, Amani Abu Zahra, not only engages in television programs and publishes books but also argues that the contentious issue of the headscarf in Europe is being exaggerated, contributing to increased polarization within communities.
The Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGÖ) emphasizes that peace can be achieved through dialogue and interfaith conversations with religious leaders, promoting tolerance, love, and respect. Furthermore, the QAMAR magazine, launched at the beginning of 2021, aims to showcase projects undertaken by Muslim citizens and share the achievements of Muslims.