Far-right anti-mosque video game triggers outrage in Austria
The picturesque Austrian province of Styria is overrun by huge mosques with minarets, if you are to believe an online video game designed for the far-right Freedom Party ahead of regional elections on September 26.
In a shooting range-style game, players have 60 seconds to collect points by putting a target over animated mosques and minarets that emerge from the Styria countryside and clicking a “Stop” sign. They also have the chance to eliminate bearded muezzin who call Muslims to prayer.
The “Bye Bye Mosque” game, which has had over 60,000 visitors since Monday, has drawn sharp criticism from Austria’s Social Democrats, Green Party and Islamic community.
The game is “tasteless and incomprehensible in a country in which up until now people have lived in peace and harmony,” Anas Schakfeh, the leader of Austria’s Islamic community told broadcaster ORF. “This is religious hatred and xenophobia beyond comparison.”
The Green candidate for the Styria election has asked authorities to investigate the Freedom Party for incitement.
The Austrian debate is symptomatic of a wider trend in the United States and in Europe where Islam is becoming a political issue. Geert Wilder’s anti-Islam party doubled its seats in the Dutch parliament after elections last month and Swiss voters backed a ban on building minarets in a referendum last November.
The game ends with the line “Styria is full of minarets and mosques. So vote for Dr. Gerhard Kurzmann and the Freedom Party on September 26 so that this doesn’t happen.”
Schakfeh recently ignited a debate about Islam in Austria after he said it would be normal to see a mosque with a visible minaret in each of Austria’s nine provinces. There are four such buildings in Austria and none of them are in Styria, where 1.6 percent of the population is Muslim according to the Austria Press Agency.
At a national level, the Freedom Party wants a special vote on banning mosques with minarets and Islamic face veils. Its leader Heinz-Christian Strache, mindful of an upcoming provincial election in Vienna, has said he wants to see protests in the capital like those in New York where hundreds have rallied against plans to build a Muslim cultural centre and mosque near the World Trade Center site.
The debate isn’t just coming from the right. In Germany central banker Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democrat, has provoked uproar for saying that Muslim immigrants undermine German society, refuse to assimilate, and sponge off the state. He has also said “all Jews share a particular gene” angering people across the German community.
The Freedom Party said its “Bye bye Mosque” game was in part in reaction to Sarrazin’s comments saying they would prefer to have “Sarrazin rather than muezzin,” in Austria. Freedom wants to “deal with a situation which has already long been widespread in Europe,” Kurzmann said. He said young people needed to be informed about the problem.