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26. 05. 11. - 16:05

Islamophobic shooter game triggers trial

A right-wing politician could be jailed for two years over a controversial computer game.

Styrian Freedom Party (FP) chief Gerhard Kurzmann will be in court later this year for putting "Moschee ba ba" (Bye, bye mosque) online ahead of last years provincial election, it was announced today (Thurs). Prosecutors in Graz accuse the councillor of agitation against ethnic and religious minorities by backing the internet shooter game.

Players have to click on mosques and praying muezzins to make them disappear in the game which was taken offline after the Greens informed the police and state prosecutors. The FP was initially tight-lipped over whether it produced "Moschee ba ba" before it emerged that a Swiss political strategist created the game for the right-wing party. The FP argued muezzins were not shot in the game. The party said it intended to start a debate over a growing Islamisation of Austria.

The FP campaigned against more mosques featuring minarets in the Styrian ballot and other votes in the past years. The party said Austrians struggling in the credit crunch must come first. It called for a stop of immigration and a law which ensures no more mosques will be erected in Austria. There are hundreds of mosques, houses of prayers and Islamic community centres in Austria but just three mosques which have minarets. None of those three are situated in Styria. Muslims in the province have no plans to build any new mosques in the region in the foreseeable future. The debate about the issue and the disputed shooter game helped the FP to bag 10.7 per cent of votes, up from 4.6 per cent in 2005.

Kurzmann faces up to two years in jail over the controversy. He could also be fined for allowing the game to go online. Prosecutors suggested that the FP Styria could be forced to pay back subsidies it received from the state to finance its election campaign. Political parties in Austria are funded depending on how successful they are in ballots. The Republic of Austria also transfers millions of Euros to the countrys leading parties to help them finance their academies and youth organisations.

State prosecutors admitted today it might be "tricky" to remove Kurzmann from power over the "Moschee ba ba" controversy even if a court finds him guilty of agitation.

It is not the first time that the Styrian department of the right-wing party makes headlines with anti-Islamic actions. Susanne Winter had to step down as head of the FP֒s branch in the provincial capital Graz in 2008 after claiming that prophet Mohammed would be considered as a child molester nowadays. She also said that he wrote the Koran "during epileptic fits." Winter was given a three-month suspended jail term. The politician subsequently became a member of the federal parliament (MP) in Vienna for the FP despite the conviction.

Meanwhile, federal FP boss Heinz-Christian Strache is under fire for calling off his attendance of a controversial World War Two (WWII) commemoration. Strache accepted an invitation to speak at the gathering of far-right student fraternities in Vienna earlier this month. He cancelled his appearance at short notice, claiming that an urgent and top secret meeting with European right-wing politicians kept him from joining them.

The annual event held in the Austrian capital has caused outcry among modest and left-wing politicians and anti-Nazi activists as the fraternities commemorate the German soldiers who lost their lives in WWII while survivors of the Nazi regimes death and forced labour camps come together to commemorate their liberation.

Rumour has it that Strache decided to pull out at the last minute amid fears that a focus on far-right policies could anger young voters, working class people and Austrians unhappy with the performance of the government coalition of Social Democrats (SP) and the conservative Peoples Party (VP). Polls have revealed that the FP has good chances to come first in the next general ballot thanks to its rising popularity among these groups of the society.

While newspapers speculate who could have attended Straches alleged European meeting which took place in Italy, according to the FP boss, magazine profil claims the summit never took place. Andreas Mlzer, who represents the FP in the European Parliament (EP), said he was unaware of such a gathering. Mlzer is regarded as a respected opinion leader of Europes far-right. Mlzer said the meeting must have been "very, very secret" since he was not informed of the occasion.

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