Austria says it is investigating allegations that the prominent Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his anti-immigration stance, made remarks that could amount to incitement of hatred in a speech during a political event he attended in Vienna.
The Austrian newspaper Kurier reported on Monday that Wilders is accused of saying that Islam’s holy book, the Quran, encourages terrorism and of comparing it to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, in a speech at a meeting of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) in March.
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Vienna’s prosectors’ office launched the probe after the Austrian Muslim Initiative (AMI), a pro-democracy rights group, lodged calls for criminal proceedings against Wilders, the FPO and the FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache over the accusations.
Kurier reported that Tarafa Baghajati, the AMI head, had accused them of hate speech and denigrating religious teachings.
Muslims were portrayed in Wilders speech in general as enemies and as a threat to Europe. And secondly, because he thinks that the Quran would encourage terrorism,” Baghajati said.
Wilders, whose party has been at or near the top of polls in the Netherlands for years, is under another investigation for alleged discrimination and incitement of hatred against Moroccans during a campaign rally in the Dutch city of The Hague last year.
He was acquitted of hate speech in a 2007 trial after making similar remarks critical of Islam. Other past targets of his attacks have included East European migrant workers and the European Union.
Wilders is currently running second in Dutch election polls, riding a wave of resentment against immigration in the Netherlands, once seen as an example of multicultural tolerance.
Wilders has said the West is “at war” with Islam and has been the target of death threats that have forced him to live under 24-hour police protection.
Strache and Wilders’ parties along with other far-right European parties formed a common bloc in the European Parliament last month.