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'A Crib Death': Islamophobia in Austria Targets New Year’s Baby

  • Baby Asel and her parents with medical staff at a hospital in Vienna.

    Baby Asel and her parents with medical staff at a hospital in Vienna. | Photo: KAV/Votava

Published 5 January 2018

Instead of the usual messages of support, baby Asel and her Muslim parents were greeted with hate.

Baby Asel was the first person born in Vienna, Austria in 2018, at 12:47 a.m. local on Jan. 1. Instead of being greeted with the usual messages of love Asel’s parents, Naime and Alper Tamga received a series of hateful messages calling for death and deportation, local media reported in the days after and helped reverse the trend into pouring support for the family. 

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Asel’s picture was posted on social media by the parents and was then picked up by local media as part of a yearly tradition where news outlets post photos of newborns in the New Year. Then the articles featuring the photos of the happy family, showing Asel’s mother wearing a headscarf, apparently motivated some Austrians to lash out against the baby and her parents with extreme Islamophobic comments. 

One person wrote: “I’m hoping for a crib death,” while others demanded the newborn’s deportation: “Deport the scum immediately,” one social media user wrote.

However, shortly after, the secretary genera of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas in Vienna, denounced the hate speech via facebook getting over 25,000 comments in support of the family. 

“In the first hours of her life, this sweet girl was already the target of an unbelievable wave of violent, hateful online commentary,” Klaus Schwertner,  of the charity wrote on his Facebook page. “It is a completely new dimension of online hate, targeting an innocent newborn.”

Austria has witnessed a spike in hate speech related to xenophobia after the country, like others in Europe, began to take in refugees from war-torn nations such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

This anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim feeling is reflected in Austria’s political make up. On December 2017 the Austrian government entered into a coalition with the far-right anti-immigration Freedom Party, making Austria the only western European state with far-right presence in its government.  

Last year anti-immigration and xenophobic feelings increased across Europe and the United States, where xenophobic anti-Muslim Donald Trump was elected president, posing a real threat to ethnic and religious minorities.

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