(Martina Salomon)

According to a recent study by the research institute IMAS, 54 percent of Austrians believe that Islam is a “danger to the West.” Furthermore, those questioned for the study increasingly have the feeling that they cannot speak about such views in public. The study was commissioned by the International Institute for Liberal Politics, and has been made exclusively available to Die Presse.

The study found that only 4 percent would be comfortable if a family member married a Muslim, while this was in fact already the case for 3 percent, and much more common in Vienna. The minaret question was also included, with 59 percent “rather against,” while 51 percent responded that the construction of mosques in general as well as the wearing of Islamic headscarves should be prohibited.

72 percent of Austrians criticized the lack of willingness of Muslims to integrate into Austria society (Green Party supporters were the exception, at 38 percent), and 61 percent agreed that “Austria is a Christian country and should remain so.” 42 percent went further, opining that “the less foreigners, the better.” Not surprisingly, the followers of the FPÖ (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs) were most supportive (76 percent), while this radical view was also shared by 39 percent of Socialist (SPÖ) supporters and 37 percent of Christian Democrats (ÖVP).

Only Green Party supporters went against this trend. While merely one out of every fourteen Green supporters was opposed to the construction of minarets, only approximately a quarter believed that Austria should remain a Christian country. In addition, almost half of the Green supporters believe that immigration is an economic and social benefit for Austria, a view shared by only 15 percent of Socialists, 16 percent of Christian Democrats, and merely 5 percent of the FPÖ-BZÖ camp.

The study also found a rise of 10 percent (from 14 percent to 24 percent) of those who believe that it is better not to speak of such topics in public, leading the IMAS-researchers to conclude that there is are “flagrant contradictions between public and private opinions.”

A large majority (71 percent) believe Islam to be incompatible with Western ideas of democracy, freedom, and tolerance. Erich Reiter, who commissioned the study and is director of the Institute for Liberal Politics, stated that “from a liberal perspective Islam is perceived as a threat for our society. Politicians should take this seriously and react accordingly.”

Approximately 60 percent of respondents said they believed either in a biblical God (25 percent) or in a “spiritual power above us” (34%). However, when it comes to children’s education Christian beliefs come in next to last (followed only by “European ethos”). The most important values to promote in education were “independent thinking and acting,” reflecting as well the self-identification of the majority of those polled, who counted themselves among “people, for whom freedom and independence have great importance” (63 percent).

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