Austria ruling party ejects MP after sexist tweet

Austria's ruling conservative party on Monday ejected a parliamentarian after he implied a politician from neighbouring Germany reached her position on "her knees".

Austria ruling party ejects MP after sexist tweet
Efgani Dönmez pictured in 2013. Photo: Manfred Werner

Asked by a Twitter user how Berlin state secretary Sawsan Chebli got her position, Efgani Dönmez tweeted over the weekend: “Look at her knees, maybe you find an answer there”.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz's People's Party (ÖVP) dismissed Dönmez, who ran on an ÖVP ticket during national elections last year, saying “sexist, offensive gaffes are not acceptable”.

Dönmez — facing calls to resign as a parliamentarian — said he would continue in his position without party affiliation.

Dönmez removed the tweet, saying on Sunday he only meant to address Chebli's “attitude”, supporting conservative Muslim groups, and not her “origins or gender”. Chebli is the daughter of Palestinian refugees.

“Based on the discussions that have followed (my tweet) I see in hindsight that I have degraded Ms. Chebli. It was a moment of weakness, absolutely wrong of me, and I apologise for this sincerely to her and to all who have felt hurt 
through this,” Dönmez posted.

The ÖVP has been governing Austria since late last year in a coalition with the far-right FPÖ.


Austrian government comes under fire over ‘Islam map’

The Austrian government came under fire on Thursday for a new "Islam map" showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatise Austria's Muslim population.

Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an internet website earlier called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.

However, the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Centre of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling centre-right ÖVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.

Map demonstrates ‘intent to stigmatise all Muslims’

The IGGÖ Muslim representative council said in a statement that it “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatise all Muslims as a potential danger”.

The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it.

“The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”

Map not meant to ‘place Muslims in general under suspicion’

Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion”.

The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticised what he calls “political Islam”.

“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa Baghajati, the head of another Muslim organisation, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.

He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practising Muslims and most of them had no links with such organisations. “It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.

Rise reported in attacks against Muslims

Since a jihadist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country. IGGÖ complained that “racism against Muslims is growing”.