There was a slight increase in the number of reported racist attacks in 2014, 794 compared to 731 in 2013 – but what is more worrying according to ZARA is the significant increase in attacks which targeted certain groups of people, including Muslims and Jews.
ZARA’s managing director Claudia Schäfer said the NGO had dealt with 61 cases which were anti-Muslim – almost double the amount of cases reported to them in 2013, and that the number of attacks had increased since August.
She told The Local that in her opinion, Austrian media coverage of the atrocities committed by Islamic State (Isis) terrorists, as well as insensitive remarks from some politicians, was the trigger for many of these attacks, which ranged from insulting remarks and physical assaults on the street, to death threats on the internet.
"A lot of political capital has been made by talking about the danger of immigrants who fail to integrate. But sadly this is contributing to increasing prejudices against certain groups and a general suspicion of Muslims,” she said.
She criticised media coverage by tabloid papers like the Kronen Zeitung, which she said had launched campaigns against asylum seekers and portrayed Roma people as “beggar gangs”.
Schäfer added that the government needed to direct its ‘de-radicalization’ measures not just towards young people with an immigration background, which risked stigmatizing them and perhaps driving them into the arms of radical elements, but also towards right-wing groups, many of whom were responsible for racist attacks.