Muslim Community Condemns Church Break-Ins

Attacks by young Islamists at Antonskirche and Stephansdom prompted strong rebuke from the IGGÖ: “We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms.”

Following two incidents with terrorist overtones, a representative group from the Community of Young Muslims and the Islamic Religious and Cultural Association (Islamist Glaubensgemeinschaft Österreich, IGGÖ), held a vigil in front of the vandalized Antonskirche in Favoriten. 

“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms,” the IGGÖ said in an official statement. “Freedom of religion is a valuable good in our society, attacks on places of worship of any religious community are absolutely unacceptable and in no way compatible with Islamic principles.”

In the first incident, between 30-50 young Turkish men broke into the Antonskirche on the evening of Thursday, October 29, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” (God is great), kicking the pews and other furnishings. The incident is thought to be a response to the recently re-published Mohammed cartoons in France. It was recorded on video by security cameras, but the youths had already fled the scene by the time the police arrived.

Two hours earlier, the group had met on Reumannplatz after organizing over social media, from where they continued on to Viktor-Adler-Markt, setting off fireworks while shouting Islamist slogans. Police took 10 of the young Turks, aged 13 to 18, into custody, establishing their identities and charging them with various counts of disturbing the peace. The investigating Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BVT Wien), has now confirmed that the perpetrators were a group of Turkish Islamists who has been drawing attention in the 10th district for months.

Tarafa Baghajati, chairman of the Initiative of Muslim Austrians, expressed horror at the event. “Nothing justifies such irresponsible behavior,” he said. “From an Islamic point of view, both places of worship and the neighborhood are absolutely protected. The Islamic commandments were grossly violated by these young people.” 

Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer also strongly condemned the incidents: 

“We will never let the right to freely practice religion be destroyed in Austria and will protect the Christian community with all our forces. I have immediately instructed the General Director for Public Security to sensitize all police divisions to these events in order to intensify surveillance of the public space, especially in the hotspot of Favoriten.”

A second, similar incident occurred at 8:00 in the morning in the Stephansdom on Saturday, Oct 31. A 25-year-old seemingly confused Afghan entered the Cathedral and called out Islamist slogans, the police reported. The man was stopped by alarmed officers of the riot unit and brought to a medical officer for assessment. The officers then cordoned off a wide area around the cathedral. They then conducted a thorough search of the Cathedral, but no suspicious objects were found. The State Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter-Terrorism has been informed of the incidents and is still investigating them.

Following the terrorist attacks in France, increased protection of French facilities and surveillance in public places has been ordered in coordination with the Federal Ministry for the Defense of the Constitution and the Fight against Terrorism (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung, BvT) and the Cobra task forces. The Ministry announced that staffing of patrol forces for the affected areas is being considerably strengthened, 

Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer (ÖVP) made it clear: “We oppose every form of extremism with all our might; there is no tolerance for it.” 

The Green Party speaker for integration, Faika El-Nagashi, called the incident “unacceptable and dangerous.” 

“We must not allow ourselves to be divided by disintegrative groups. With each of these incidents, our response must be: more cohesion, more cooperation, more democracy, more emancipation, more education, more prevention of violence, more plurality.”

The potential for violence and aggression among young people is fuelled by jihadist fundamentalism and nationalist rhetoric, El-Nagashi said, calling for violence-prevention and de-radicalization work from all sides to counter the underpinnings of Islamist and nationalist ideologies. 

FPÖ security spokesman Hannes Amesbauer announced a parliamentary enquiry to the Minister of the Interior on the background of the attack on the Church in Favoriten. The Viennese FPÖ leader, Dominik Nepp, demanded consequences and deportation for all troublemakers, a move supported by the Viennese ÖVP, which called on the SPÖ-led city government to follow through on this, accusing the Social Democrats of having ignored parallel societies. 

Daniel Jacob El-Sabeh
Daniel is half Austrian, with German Russian and Italian Lebanese roots, and grew up in Vienna and Lower Austria. Before joining Metropole, he worked as a Chef de Rang in numerous hotels. He's a hobby composer, film buff, and retro enthusiast.

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