The game allows players to shoot down minarets and muezzins with a 'Stop' button

A far-right party in Austria has sparked outrage by launching an online video game which allows players to shoot down minarets and muezzins calling for prayer.

The game, called "Moschee Baba", or "Bye Bye Mosque", gives players 60 seconds to collect points by placing a target over cartoon mosques, minarets and Muslims and click a "Stop" sign.

It is being used by the Freedom Party (FPOe), which has a link to the game on its website, to encourage voters to elect Gerhard Kurzmann, the party's candidate in the picturesque region of Styria.

"Game Over. Styria is now full of minarets and mosques!" it says at the end of a session, before inviting players to vote for Kurzmann on September 26, when local elections are being held.

The website then invites viewers to take part in a survey which asks them whether the construction of minarets and mosques should be banned in Austria, and whether Muslims should sign a declaration in which they accept that the law takes precedence over the Quran.

According to the Austria Press Agency there are no mosques with minarets in Styria, where 1.6 per cent of the population is Muslim, and only four such buildings in the entire country.

'Religious hatred'

Anas Schakfeh, the leader of Austria's Islamic community, has described the game as "tasteless and incomprehensible".

"This is religious hatred and xenophobia beyond comparison," he told Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Austria's Social Democrats and Green Party have joined the Islamic community in condemning the video.

"The FPOe is targeting minarets that don't even exist," Werner Kogler, the Green candidate in Styria, said.

The game also appears to have divided the FPOe camp, with its deputy, Manfred Haimbuchner, quoted as saying the party should "seek attention with substance, not with constant provocations".

However Herbert Kickl, the party secretary, defended the game saying it did not involve any real shooting, but rather "the pushing of a stop-button to halt a bad political decision."

European debate

The Islamic community and the Green party filed complaints for incitement of hatred and degrading of a religion on Wednesday, which can be punished with prison sentences of up to two years.

Prosecutors in Graz, the capital of Styria, have launched an inquiry and will decide whether to take the game off the Internet.

Islamic buildings and dress have sparked debates in many European countries recently, with French and Belgian MPs voting to outlaw the niqab, and Swiss voters backing a ban on building minarets.

Austria's Freedom Party wants a special vote on banning mosques with minarets and Islamic face veils.  

Heinz-Christian Strache, its leader, has said he wants to see anti-Muslim protests similar to those in New York over the building of a Muslim cultural centre near the World Trade Center site.

The debate isn’t just coming from the right. In Germany central banker Thilo Sarrazin, a Social Democrat, has provoked uproar for saying that Muslim immigrants undermine German society, refuse to assimilate, and sponge off the state. He has also said “all Jews share a particular gene” angering people across the German community.

The Freedom Party said its “Bye bye Mosque” game was in part in reaction to Sarrazin’s comments saying they would prefer to have “Sarrazin rather than muezzin,” in Austria. Freedom wants to “deal with a situation which has already long been widespread in Europe,” Kurzmann said. He said young people needed to be informed about the problem.

With its catchy slogans and youthful leader, the Freedom Party enjoys strong support from young people in Austria, polling 17.5 percent of the vote at a national level in 2008.

Source: Agencies