Vienna – Sep. 4 2011 – Federal President Heinz Fischer, ambassadors, representatives of Muslim communities, dozens of Austrians, and some thousands of women men, children of the Muslim from all of Vienna celebrated today Sunday at the Islamic Center in Floridsdorf in Vienna the Islamic festivity of Eid El-Fitr, which officially ends the fasting month of Ramadan. The celebration was organized by the Islamic Community in Austria (IGGiÖ).
President Fischer, who was invited for the celebration, interacted with the representatives of the community and took part in all the celebrations of the day with a high spirit of responsibility and with friendly demeanor towards all those present. He was visibly happy when a group of schoolchildren presented songs in German language to him.
President Fischer, the guest of honor of the celebration of Eid El-Fitr at the Islamic Center, delivered a speech which won the respect of everyone, and he was warmly cheered and applauded at the end of each paragraph. In his speech, President Fischer described the Islamic religion and Muslim communities as a significant and increasingly important part in Austrian society, and emphasized that Muslims have equal rights of free exercise of religion in Austria. He said that next year Austria will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of recognition of Islam in Austria as a religious community. The President made it clear in his speech that integration is not only the responsibility of groups, but that it is an individual responsibility, and that it can only be successful if each person is willing to discharge this responsibility.
Following the speech delivered by President Fischer, the president of the IGGiÖ presented him with a copy of the Holy Koran, a book about Islamic Culture and a commemorative plaque as symbol of gratitude for his attendance to the Islamic festivity. Several children also presented Dr. Fischer with beautiful bouquets of red roses. The President expressed his happiness about the roses, saying that he felt as if it was his birthday, but that this date comes in February.
The President later toured in the courtyard and the Mosque together with the present dignitaries. At the mosque, he listened to a brief explanation about its function and was invited to the offices of the head of the community. After that, he went to the reception hall for a brief lunch and finally gave interviews to Austrian and Turkish TV before departing.
I am sad to say that all the friendliness and smiles and sweet words from the present dignitaries of the Muslim community appeared to be only skin-deep. Apart from the main event with President Fischer, several diplomats and the dignitaries of the local Muslim communities, the celebration of Eid El-Fitr appeared chaotic, lacking managed and chaotic. I did not have the impression that this was a venue proper for receiving the President of the Republic, and strangeness was apparent since we arrived.
At the entrance of the premises, a pack of goons was milling around, playing “security”, not checking people or being helpful in any way, but sporting their earphones with curly tails and in some cases dark glasses, just feeling powerful. In the yard of the Center, some kiosks offering food and beverages or asking for contributions to social causes could be found. I thought that the main event was in the social room inside the Mosque, but I found my way to the main event under a big tent because of the loud volume coming from there. I forced my way through the crowds as there was no free aisle or any other way of arriving to the front without pushing through the masses.
Goons Harassing Photographers and Journalists
At the front, a podium, and on one side many journalists, photographers. I started shooting pictures and eventually found myself among the colleagues. What first called my attention is that here was another pack of goons harassing all the photographers, rudely pushing people aside who were trying to do their job. One of them grabbed a small boy who had been making pictures with his cell-phone, perhaps 8 or 9 years old, and marched him out. Eventually they all left and I remained alone among these “security” honchos.
One of the goons started grabbing me from the arm, pulling it down each time when I tried to shoot a picture, several times. I told him to stop touching me what caused him to call his boss. I left the area, indignant.
Before this incident, I have only had this kind of constant harassment from the israeli military while trying to do my work. One of the colleagues, a photographer, spoke to me later, he described the treatment of these people towards all of us as “disgusting”.
I wonder, for what does a religious community needs to keep a pack of goons like that in a country where the law is respected? The Catholic Church does not have people like that and of other religious groups I have never heard. A bunch of arrogant as lacking in professionalism “security” people, causing trouble for all journalists present, barely able to keep the protocol, unaware that the security of a venue implies far more than milling around, striking macho poses and displaying lacking manners, they were responsible for the visible chaos and lack of security measures considered standard at places where large masses of people congregate. One of the Austrian security people was clearly unhappy at the behavior of the Turkish “colleagues”.
After nine years in Vienna, this is the first time I have attended any event of the Muslim Community. I went there only because President Fischer attended, else I would not have gone. Because of the harassment by the security goons and other things I saw there, it was also my last visit there.