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August 25, 2020 3:08 pm

Academic Study Warned of ‘Alarming’ Antisemitism Among Muslim Refugees in Austrian City Where Jewish Leader Was Attacked

avatar by Ben Cohen

Syrian refugees wait in a bus on the border between Austria and Germany, October 2015. Photo: Reuters / Michaela Rehle.

An academic study of Muslim refugees in the southern Austrian city of Graz conducted three years ago warned that the strongly antisemitic views held by half of them were “alarming.”

The study — by Ednan Aslan, professor of Islamic Religious Education of the University of Vienna — was revisited this week following the attack last Saturday on Elie Rosen, the president of the Jewish community in Graz, by a Syrian Islamist who had been living in Austria since 2013.

Chief Inspector Fritz Grundnig, the police officer heading the investigation into the assailant, described the unnamed man as “filled with hatred of Israel, Jews, gays, lesbians and prostitutes.”

The man was also charged with damaging a Catholic church, an LGBT+ club and a bar in Graz’s red-light district.

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Aslan’s survey, conducted in 2017, involved interviews with nearly 300 Muslim refugees who had settled in Graz.

“It was noticeable that more than half had internalized antisemitism as part of their religiosity,” Aslan told the Austrian newspaper Der Standard on Monday. “It was even more suspicious that they were very reluctant to talk about it, and then very cautiously. So one had to take the high [level of] anti-Jewish prejudice all the more seriously.”

The report itself was all the more blunt, stating that the “alarming results of the study regarding antisemitic attitudes are certainly a special challenge for the city of Graz.”

Asked whether Jews had too much influence in the world, 46 percent agreed, with 44 percent also sharing the view that the Jewish religion was “harmful to the world.”

Nearly 55 percent of the refugees interviewed agreed with the statement that Jews “do not care about anyone except themselves.”

The same survey revealed deep intolerance of the LGBT+ community, with 50 percent believing that homosexuality was a sin “deserving of punishment.”

Aslan argued that because antisemitism was a “theological matter” for many Muslims, it was important to establish civic dialogue groups with local Jews, “so that Muslims can correct their ideas and reconsider their prejudices.”

“Through contact with Jews, they could have the experience of engaging with people who, like themselves, may be fathers and mothers, and have the same wishes for their children,” Aslan said. “Now it’s no longer ‘the Jew,’ but Mr. Rosen.”

The role of imams in Muslim communities was also critical when it came to combating antisemitism, Aslan said.

In that regard, he added, several mosques in Graz were “problematic” because they were “strongly influenced by political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.”

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