Pilgrimage church walls smeared with anti-Islam slogans

Police are investigating after the walls of Austria’s most important pilgrimage site were defaced with anti-Islamic statements.Police in Mariazell, Styria, said today (Mon) the graffiti on the outside wall of the Mariazell Basilica was 30 metres long and one metre high. The slogans read “Der Koran ist dem Teufel seine Bibel” (Koran is the bible of the devil) and “Am Horizont taucht der Teufel auf” (The devil appears on the horizon”).They said the attack must have occurred between Saturday night and Sunday morning, adding that the provincial department for the protection of the constitution and the fight against terrorism was heading the investigation.The church is Austria’s best known pilgrimage site and a major tourist attraction. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world visit it every year.The attack comes as the province of Styria is engaged in a bitter war of words following the publication of a controversial online computer game.The Styrian branch of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) caused outcry among NGOs and the Green Party by launching a game called “Moschee ba ba” (Bye, bye mosque) in which the player is asked to target mosques, minarets and muezzins. The party was forced to take the disputed game offline after a few days. However the game briefly re-emerged on an internet discussion forum run by Austrian and German neo-Nazis via a server in the United States.FPÖ Styria boss Gerhard Kurzmann’s immunity was lifted by prosecutors after the Greens reported him for agitation following the publication of the game.Yet his party apparently benefited from the heated debate about the game. In last month’s provincial elections it garnered 10.7 per cent (2005: 4.6 per cent). The Greens improved by just 0.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent.Greens front runner Werner Kogler accused the FPÖ of doing nothing than “creating fear and hatred among people” by calling for a stop of “mass integration from Muslim countries”.Kogler stressed that there were no mosques featuring minarets in the province, adding that the Muslim community in Styria had no plans to build any.Around half a million of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Muslims, but there are just four mosques with minarets in the country.The online shooter game was created shortly after Anas Schakfeh, president of the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ), called for mosques with minarets to be built in all nine provincial capitals of the country. Public opinion research agency Karmasin found last month that a majority of 52 per cent opposed the idea.The Medical University of Styrian capital Graz (MUG) became the first university in Austria to partially ban veils last month. Managers of the (MUG) decided to prohibit wearing veils that disguise women’s faces in seminars and exams, while students would still be allowed to wear veils in lectures. They stressed the new ruling had no political background but was “purely based on pragmatic reasons”.