Is Austria’s New Anti-Islamism the Old Anti-Semitism of Europe and Anschluss?
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Tuesday, Jan 23, 2018
|Erika M. was right: Everything really did change overnight.
But while most know about the evening of March 11, 1938, when Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg announced his decision not to defend Austria from Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and when German troops marched into Vienna the very next day as expected, what’s seldom known or discussed is how Europe’s and Austria’s betrayal of Judaism had been preceded by centuries of Jewish statelessness. Known as Anschluss, or the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, the symbolic destruction of Jewish status had started.
Vanguards of Anti-Islam or Extra Jewish-Like Statelessness
A new ruling coalition between the anti-immigration Austrian People’s Party (APP) and anti-establishment Austrian Freedom Party (AFP) is consequently giving rise to new fears of Europe’s fight against mass migration from the Muslim world. Not only is Austria-along with Hungary-projected to be the vanguard of anti-Islamism, but as leader of the AFP many share in Heinz-Christian Strache’s view that Austria has a lot in common with Israel. What’s more, he maintains that “…if one defines the Judeo-Christian West, then Israel represents the border. If Israel fails, Europe fails. And If Europe fails, Israel fails.”
Like Europe’s Muslims, Jews were also dispersed out of their Middle East homeland and into Europe and Austria. At times, they were treated as citizens. But they were also treated as a stateless group of people. No longer enjoying any state protection, they were persecuted or imprisoned by a majority that wished to distance itself from the past and align itself with the future. Statelessness, to be sure, opened a window of opportunity to resettle Jews into ghettos and camps. It also encouraged those ready for violence and outright theft-and even death. Concentration and extermination camps soon followed.
Integration Or More Legalized Discrimination
Heinz-Christian Strache will govern with Chancellor-elect Sebastian Kurz, 31, who won Austria’s national election on October 15 after campaigning on a promise to halt illegal immigration. What makes this a concern for some is that he’s also warned how the mass migration of Muslims is “Islamizing” Austria. Chancellor Kurz moreover pushed through parliament a ground breaking new law that regulates the integration of Muslim immigrants. Known as the Integration Law, it bans full-face veils in public spaces and prohibits Islamic literature-like the Koran-from being distributed.
The new law also requires immigrants from non-EU countries to sign an “integration contract” that obligates them to learn written and spoken German, and to enroll in courses about the “basic values of Austria’s legal and social order.” On the heels of reforming Austria’s century-old Islamic Law, which sets new standards for governing the status of Muslims, another condition is to “acquire knowledge of the democratic order and the basic principles derived from it.” In the meantime, both leader have been strong critics of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door migration policy.
Could Everything Change Overnight, Again
Although Austrian officials claim the new laws are aimed at properly integrating Muslims while fighting Islamic radicalism, opponents warn that similar laws were passed by Germany and Austria as Nazism gained power. Indeed, some ask if promoting an “Islam with an Austrian character,” and stressing that Austrian law must take precedence over Islamic Sharia law for Muslims living in the country, isn’t comparable to how Austrians and Europeans tried to remake Jews in their likeness? It also brings to mind how certain Jewish laws and customs, and even religious traditions, were outlawed.
Another issue opponents raise with Austria’s new anti-Muslim laws is that Europe is-and has been-militarily involved in many predominantly Islamic countries. To be sure, NATO and contributors like Austria have sent troops and weapons to the African states of Libya, Nigeria, and Somalia-just to name a few. Troops have also been used in the Middle East and Asia in Afghanistan and Syria. In addition to training and arming rebel factions, air campaigns have killed countless civilians. For some, such ongoing military interventions will only lead to more stateless Muslims and attacks by extreme or radical Islamic groups.
Logic of Austria’s Immigration Not That Logical
Those who support a softer approach in dealing with Muslim immigrants warn that under Anschluss, Austrians separated themselves from their fellow citizens and disappearing state by their behavior and their expressions. A new ideology moreover gained control: Nazism. Nationalists, Social Democrats and Christian Socialists embraced ideology more than the state, the separation of minorities the proof of their guilt. They also became ideologues more than Austrians, their anti-Semitism teaching the Germans how to treat Jews. Austria, to be sure, had become a laboratory for the end of the world.
Whether this happens to Muslim refugees in Europe is speculation. There are, however, parallels, especially with how some Muslims in Austria and Europe remain stateless and sense a life of either statelessness or utter despair. Given they’ve fled war torn regions in which NATO has added to the conditions of their collapsed states, and that Austria’s new far-right Vice-Chancellor Strache just suggested Muslim asylum-seeker and other refugees should be housed in “underused” military barracks, it makes one question the logic of Europe’s anti-Islamism-let alone anti-immigration laws.
Whether a refugee camp, a boat fleeing across the Mediterranean Sea, or trying to live in a new nation and culture, one thing is certain: each moment of stateless and uncertainty has profound consequences.
Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com//dallasdarling.)
(1) Snyder, Timothy. Black Earth: The Holocaust As History And Warning. New York, New York: The Duggan Books, 2015., p. 82.
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