Refugee home blast aggravates pre-election wars of words
SP / Astrid Knie
13. 09. 10. – 16:00
Police are investigating after a bomb went off in front of a refugee home in Graz.
One Georgian asylum seeker suffered minor injuries in the blast around 1.40am on Saturday morning. No one else was harmed but the venues front door was damaged, according to investigators.
Maximilian Ulrich, a spokesman for police in the Styrian capital, said today (Mon) the explosive charge was most likely self-made. He stressed it would have caused serious injured had anyone been around when it went off.
Ulrich said investigators continued to interview witnesses this morning, adding that footage of a CCTV installation was examined as well.
“The building is now under police protection. Officers also have a close eye on the vicinity of other refugee homes in the city following the incident,” he announced.
The detonation happened just two weeks before Styrians head to the polls in an upcoming provincial election.
The Social Democrats (SP) Governor Franz Voves and Hermann Schtzenhfers conservative Peoples Party (VP) are neck and neck in polls ahead of the 26 September ballot.
Voves claimed today it was important not to make the refugees home blast too big a topic. “I think it would be a mistake to exaggerate the incident. This would only mean those responsible for it get what they were looking for.”
Both right-wing rivals, the Freedom Party (FP) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZ) are tipped to improve their share after disappointing showings five years ago. The FP garnered 4.6 per cent in the 2005 provincial election, while the BZ set up earlier that year won just 1.7 per cent.
BZ Styria boss Gerald Grosz said today he will take the Migrants Council of the City of Graz to court. The body claimed following the refugee home blast that “politically agitating election campaigning” stirred up people against each other and created enemy stereotypes.
The institution mentioned the FP and the BZ, but also hit out at “those political parties who indirectly accept xenophobia by remaining silent”.
Susanne Winter had to step down as Graz FP leader two years ago after claiming in a speech that Mohammed “would be considered a child molester nowadays”. She also asserted that the prophet, who founded Islam, had written the Koran “during epileptic fits”.
Winter subsequently entered the federal parliament on a FP ticket to the fury of political opponents and NGOs.
Her party caused a stir only a few weeks ago when it set up a website featuring a shooter game in which players target mosques, minarets and muezzins.
The game called “Moschee ba ba” (Bye, bye mosque) ends with a statement saying: “Styria is full of minarets and mosques. So that this doesnt happen (in reality): Vote Gerhard Kurzmann and the FP!”
FP Styria boss Gerhard Kurzmann is believed to be a representative of the FPs far-right branch. He claims members of the infamous Third Reich Waffen-SS were “decent people” and has been campaigning against the introduction of English terms into everyday German.
The online game was launched days after Anas Schakfeh, president of the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGi), called for mosques with minarets to be built in all nine provincial capitals of the country.
Around half a million Muslims live in Austria, but there are only three mosques with minarets in the country, none of them in Styria.
Federal FP boss Heinz-Christian Strache failed to clearly disassociate himself from the controversial PC game. He only stressed that his partys Styrian department was responsible for its campaign contents, adding that he “opposed” games in election campaigning periods.
Schakfehs appeal was backed by the Austrian representation of the international Catholic peace movement Pax Christi but was criticised by many Muslims amid fears the FP will be boosted by the controversy.
The shooter was taken offline by the Styrian FP after more than 140,000 people visited the homepage but re-emerged on an infamous neo-Nazi website.
“Alpen Donau Info” has been giving constitution and human rights watchdogs a hard time for years. The homepage a hit among right-winger extremists across Europe is run by a server located in the United States and therefore immune to Austrias strict anti-Nazi propaganda law.
“Alpen Donau Info” voluntarily removed the game after a few days, claiming their “mission was accomplished”.
The Styrian election will be succeeded by the Vienna city vote on 10 October in which the SP will try to avoid losing its absolute majority in seats. The party of Mayor Michael Hupl won 49.1 per cent of the overall vote in 2005.
Analysts expected the FP to increase their share in Vienna too. The right-wing party, which won 14.8 per cent five years ago, has focused on crime and anti-immigration issues in its campaign in the capital.
The FPs posters claim the ruling Social Democrats “protect men who force women to wear headscarves”. It also accused the SP of not caring about the Austrian youth but immigration.
Strache said the Viennese branch of the SP has developed into an “Islamist party” which increases taxes and fees. Hupl reacted by calling the right-winger a “stupid person”, adding that his party will not cooperate with the FP in any way.
“Strache has nothing to contribute when it comes to debating topics that will matter in the future,” Hupl who became mayor in 1994 claimed.