Church slams Austria’s ‘Islam Map’

The Austrian Catholic church became the latest religious group to criticise a government-backed, online map of hundreds of Islamic organisations which sparked violence against the country's Muslim minority.

Church slams Austria's 'Islam Map'
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Photo: JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP

The highly controversial map shows details of more than 600 Muslim associations — from youth groups to mosques — including details on their location and photos of members.

The map was first presented by a government-funded group monitoring Muslim extremism and by Austria’s Integration Minister Susanne Raab, a member of conservative, anti-migration Austrian People’s Party (OeVP), who called it a tool to “fight political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism.”

Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the head of the Austrian Catholic church, wrote in an op-ed Friday that it was “dangerous to give the impression that one of the religious community is under general suspicion”, and asked why one of the country’s many religious communities was singled out.

Umit Vural, head of the Islamic Religious Community of Austria, described the map as a “massive security threat” to Muslims, while the Muslim Youth Austria organisation said several Muslims had already been attacked and a mosque has been defaced since that map went online in late May.

About a quarter of Austria’s majority Catholic population vote for the Islamophobic far-right party, and far-right extremists in the past week have put up signs reading “Be careful! Political Islam is near you” on streets where the map showed Muslim organisation, calling on “fellow patriots” to join them.

EU Special Representative on Antisemitic and Anti-Muslim Hatred and Hate Crimes Daniel Hoeltgen urged the government to take down the map, while a range of representatives of other religious communities, including the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, Pinchas Goldschmidt, also rebuked it.

Verbal and physical attacks against Muslims have already been on the rise since an Austrian-born Jihadist killed four in Vienna in early November, according to a group documenting Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism.

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Today in Austria: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday

Find out what's going on in Austria on Tuesday with The Local's short roundup of today's news.

Runners jog in the Schönbrunn palace gardens in Vienna, Austria (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Runners jog in the Schönbrunn palace gardens in Vienna, Austria (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Dispute in coalition over corona laws 

There continues to be a dispute about easing the corona rules and this is dividing Austria’s governing coalition and the federal states, Der Standard newspaper reports.

On Friday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that change distance regulations and curfew restrictions. Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein then reminded the Chancellor that the coalition had agreed on a different, joint, approach and had planned first to meet with the leaders of the federal states and experts the following Friday. 

Chancellor Kurz then announced the next opening steps for June 17th on Monday. Health Minister Mückstein in turn gave an interview to the ZiB2 programme saying there could be an easing of the mask requirement outside on June 10th. The newspaper reports Green party leader Johannes Rauch believes the debate is being staged by the ÖVP to divert attention from the Chancellor’s impending indictment.

READ MORE: Austrian Chancellor Kurz sees image dented as he faces investigations

Seven day incidence rate at 49

According to the AGES database the seven-day incidence, or the number of new infections with the coronavirus in the past seven days per 100,000 inhabitants, is 49. In all federal states, the number is now well below 100 – with Vorarlberg (75.8) and Burgenland (28.2) having the highest and lowest values, respectively.

Vaccination appointments promised for Upper Austria

Anyone who has registered for a vaccination by noon today in Upper Austria should receive an email by tomorrow to book an appointment, broadcaster ORF reports. So far, almost 540,000 people in Upper Austria have been vaccinated. 

Children aged 12 and over will soon be eligible for vaccination

The number of people who can be vaccinated in Austria is likely to increase in the coming days because the European Medicines Agency will soon authorise the Biontech vaccination for children aged 12 to 15, according to Der Standard newspaper. According to the Ministry of Health, around 400,000 young people will soon be eligible.

Kurz criticises behaviour of Belarus

Chancellor Kurz said the behavior of Belarus was “absolutely unacceptable and must be strongly rejected”, after the country sent a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight travelling between Athens and Vilnius to land, claiming there was a bomb threat. Police then arrested journalist and activist Roman Protasevich along with his girlfriend Sofia Sapega.

Billions lost due to pandemic 

Calculations by the think tank Agenda Austria finds there will be a loss of prosperity of around €140 billion euros in Austria up to 2024, according to the Wiener Zeitung newspaper. Once state aid to companies is taken into account, this increases to €175 billion. Even in 2024, domestic economic output will be €20 billion lower than it would have otherwise been.

Domestic customs collected €6.73 in 2020

Domestic customs collected €6.73 billion in 2020 despite travel restrictions, the Wiener Zeitung newspaper reports. In the first quarter of 2021 it was €1.59 billion. It reports the number of customs clearances increased by around a quarter in the first quarter of 2021 as a result of Brexit. Revenue of €3.78 billion was made up of mineral oil taxes in 2020 and around €1.99 billion were collected through tobacco tax.