Far-Right Austrian Party Calls for Ban on 'Fascistic Islam'

Head of the Austrian Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache visits "The Valley of the Communities" monument, which bears engravings with the names of some 5,000 Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis or their collaborators, at Yad Vashem's Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, April 12, 2016. Reuters

The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPO) on Saturday called for a law banning "fascistic Islam" and Muslim symbols, comparable to an existing law banning Nazi symbols, saying Islam could wipe out European society.

Austria needs "a law which prohibits fascistic Islam," Heinz Christian Strache told several thousand supporters at the party's new year meeting in Salzburg.

"Let us put an end to this policy of Islamization... otherwise we Austrians, we Europeans will come to an abrupt end," Strache said, in an apparent reference to the course pursued by the coalition government.

The junior coalition party OVP called on Wednesday for halving the number of asylum applications accepted this year to around 17,000.

Strache responded by saying: "We need zero and minus immigration."

Any law against extreme elements of Islam should be similar to the law Austria introduced after WWII banning the Nazi Party and Nazi symbols, a party spokesman said when asked for clarification.

The Freedom Party's anti-Muslim message has been well-received by a large minority of Austria's electorate. Its presidential candidate Norbert Hofer was defeated in a run-off vote last month but gained 47 percent support.

The nation of 8.7 million people has received more than 130,000 claims for asylum from people fleeing war and poverty in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq since the summer of 2015. About 600,000 Muslims, some of whom arrived during Europe's migration crisis, live in Austria.

The party, which has long called for a ban on face veils, also called for changing the way refugees are taken care of.

The state, not NGOs like the Catholic charity Caritas, should be in charge of their care to make sure money is spent efficiently, Hofer himself said at the same event on Saturday.