D3.2 Country Report | July 2021
Authors: Miriam Haselbacher, Ursula Reeger, Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Austrian Academy of Sciences
Although violent extremism and actual terrorist attacks are the exception in Austria compared to other countries, certain tendencies towards alienation, polarisation, and radicalisation have become increasingly observable in recent years. The most important strands in this context include right-wing extremism that has a long history in the country and Islamic extremism, a quite new phenomenon in Austria that culminated in the terror attack in Vienna in November 2020. In this report, we provide an indepth analysis of one example for each of these strands. In the realm of right-wing extremism, we introduce an action by the right-wing extremist group “Identitarian Movement” which took place in 2016 at the University of Vienna. Activists interrupted a play that was performed together with refugees, took the stage to unroll a banner and to spill fake blood in order to provoke calculated outrage. In the realm of Islamic extremism, we take a closer look at the attack in the inner city of Vienna in November 2020, when a single perpetrator and sympathizer of the terrorist militia Islamic State killed four people and injured more than twenty further victims.
Comparing the micro, meso and motivational factors related to the cases, these two incidents show some similarities regarding grievance and polarisation, while the elements of injustice and alienation differ to some extent. Pronounced feelings of discontent seem to have been the driving force in both cases, while the element of injustice was approached from quite different angles, with the Identitarian Movement considering the very label “extremist” unjust. Macro factors have created a highly polarised political and societal environment that may nurture individual processes of radicalisation. Regarding right-wing and Islamic extremism, there seems to be a vicious cycle: people of Muslim faith have been the target of populist discourses in recent years and the far right has mobilised its followers using nativist, anti-Semitic and anti- Muslim rhetoric. This leads to an environment where people who are perceived as “the other” are structurally excluded and alienated. Macro factors thus intertwine and set the margins for both hotspots, even though the effects are quite different.