Austrian minister of Bosnian-Muslim origin targeted by far-right
VIENNA - Less than a week after Austria's new conservative-Green coalition took power, it has become a target of far-right supporters, who railed against the country's first minister with a refugee background.
Justice Minister Alma Zadic, who was born in Bosnia 35 years ago and fled the wars that tore apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s with her family at the age of 10, has faced a wave of social media abuse and death threats.
The abuse has often appeared under posts from politicians from the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), a junior coalition partner until May, revealing racist attitudes some say were fostered by the party during its time in office.
"A criminal Muslim woman becoming justice minister. Sharia is coming soon," read one such contribution.
Zadic, of the Green Party, however, has received support from across the political spectrum.
Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who also headed the coalition with the FPOe, vowed to "fight online hate -- whether from the left, Islamists or the right."
"Alma Zadic and all others who are affected by this have my full support!" he tweeted.
As in neighbouring Germany, Austrian society traditionally saw immigrants as "guest workers," said sociologist Kenan Guengoer, who serves on an official expert panel on integration.
Historically, they were viewed as "people who are here temporarily and would go back," Guengoer said.
"Guest workers" and refugees made up the forerunners of today's population of more than 530,000 who have roots in the former Yugoslavia.
Austria's Bosnian community is considered to be among the best integrated, said journalist Melisa Erkurt, who was born in Sarajevo.
Erkurt said Zadic could serve as a much-needed role model for young ethnic minority Austrians whom she says have not traditionally been encouraged to aim for positions of power. At the same time, she said Zadic's treatment could be a cautionary tale.
Zadic has been targeted "despite the fact she speaks perfect German, she has a doctorate, she doesn't wear a headscarf,” Erkurt said.
"In other words, you can do everything 'right' in Austria but still be met with racism," Erkurt said.
Indeed, in defending Zadic, the Green Party felt it necessary to clarify she did not practise any religion.