Austria: anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim prejudice rise in Pegida’s shadow

The influence of Pegida goes beyond its weekly protest in Dresden as copycat movements crop up across in Europe.

In Austria, the prospect of a Pegida-inspired supporters brought a spate of both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic incidents.

A number of swastikas were daubed on the walls of a mosque that is now the subject of a ‘national security investigation’. In mid-December, worshippers at another Vienna mosque found a pig’s head nailed to the door.

Outside the city limits of Vienna, the Mauthausen concentration camp was daubed with swastikas and the word Hitler.

Over the weekend, two men were assaulted by a group of individuals espousing anti-Semitic slogans including “Scheissjuden” (“Shitty Jews”).

Unlike in Dresden, the Austrian event will likely only inspired several hundred to attend. A large counter protest is planned and police are drafting extra numbers to deal with any potential fallouts.

As stated elsewhere, racism and xenophobia existed in Vienna before Pegida’s ascendancy and will continue to reshape over time. Yet Pegida’s success in mainstream channels might encourage more violent far-right linked groups to act out when communities feel a greater sense of tension after the atrocities in Paris.

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the EU Commission, raised his own concerns about rising anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-Semitism, homophobia and anti-women prejudice in the EU bloc: “There is rising anti-Semitism, there is rising Islamophobia, there is rising homophobia,” he said during a meeting in Latvia.

Mr Timmersmans added: “If Jews in this Europe cannot feel at home, Europe is finished. If Jews believe their future is not in Europe, Europe has no future. And this applies to Muslims alike – and to other minorities. If gay people think they have to go back into the closet, we have no future for Europe”.