Who is Anybody?

15 01 2008

Video Clip: Excellent short clips by young German producer Jochen Graf for ZARA. Freely available at http://www.filmproduktion.org/zaraspots/

Graz, Austria’s second largest city with about 280,000 inhabitants, has upcoming local elections. Not that this is of international, or as a matter of fact national, importance, the struggling local right-extremist FPÖ wished otherwise. Seeking attention on national media, their local party leader exclaimed once of the most horrendous racist remark voiced in an Austrian election campaign. I do not wish to promote neither the comments nor the person, so let us codeword this person as Anybody.

Anybody, as witnessed on camera (if you wish to see it, the original subtitled in English is here), is struggling through her speech, focusing on her manuscript, when she called the prophet Muhammad a war lord and, moments later, as a pedophile, because he allegedly married a 6-year-old girl (I do comment on that at the end). And, questioning altogether whether Islam is a religion, she stated, with reference to the prophet that “the Koran was written by him in epileptic seizures…” It is actually medically not possible to write during such seizures; something a wife of a dentist and a half-finished medical degree should certainly know.

The tactics of the FPÖ is not new, well practiced in the party’s more successful years under Jörg Haider’s leadership: evidently lacking competence and political ideas, the party has chosen xenophobic and racist election campaigns to increase their vote share. Anybody’s speech, in tone and content matches that of the former controversial FPÖ leader, however, delivered under rather grotesque circumstances. Anybody is not fighting a national election; the life of the prophet Muhammad, certainly, has no immediate relevance to any political issues at hand. And the speaker, evidently lost without a manuscript – thank you, YouTube, it’s all to clear for everyone to see – reminds me of Johnny English’s way of politics: Certainly not to be taken seriously. At times of Jörg Haider party leadership, comment like that caused a huge international outcry; and every newspapers and media outlet from London, New York to Sydney would report about it. And while living in the UK in the late 1990s, I would regularly read of it or see on the BBC. Anbody today, however, is just not relevant: She is anybody, like you and me. Why pay any attention to her? Why indeed!

Of course, there are extremely serious implications of such incompetent, racist and degrading remarks; but most Austrian political parties, as well as President Heinz Fischer, made it clear that these are “unacceptable comments”, and Fischer continued: “This is not the voice of Austria. It is, however, one voice, from which we are distancing ourselves.” Barbara Liegl of ZARA reminds us that “politicians endanger with such remarks – that clearly go beyond the rights of freedom of expression – the security of Muslims and other ethnic minorities mentioned in Austria.”

Most admirably was the reaction by Carla Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft, when she said that we “should not let us provoke [by comments as mentioned above, sic] but stay on a rational discourse.” Nevertheless, the organization representing Muslims in Austria has – understandably – taken legal action against Anybody and the FPÖ.

The FPÖ’s strategy might this time, once again, succeed in terms of increase of votes in the election next weekend. However, it has failed, more importantly, to create an international echo, and a victimization of – international terms – an irrelevant political party. Today, Anybody’s comments were too obscure, incompetent and ridiculous – though nevertheless extremely hurting to anyone sharing this belief, in Austria or anywhere else in the world. Having said that, th apparent threats against Anybody’s life were made public today and consequently her personal security has dramatically increased. Therefore, one would wish her a long life and healthy retirement, because Austria does not need an unworthy ‘hero’.

N.B.: I would like to add a comment to the Anybody’s the comment about pedophilia and the commonly cited version where Aisha bint Abu Bakr, one of nine wifes of prophet Muhammad, was married to him at the age of nine. A view, strongly contested by Muslim writers and historians. Nevertheless, let us put an early age of marriage in context. The events surrounding the prophet Muhammad date back roughly 2,000 years. However, in the Christian medieval Europe, underage marriages were still very common. As an example, one of Scandinavia most powerful rulers was the Norwegian Margaret I. (1353 – 1412) who married the ‘pedophile’ Norwegian King at the age of 10.

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5 responses

15 01 2008
Election » Blog Archive » Who is Anybody?

[…] Music & Politics in Vienna wrote an interesting post today on Who is Anybody?Here’s a quick excerptGraz, Austria’s second largest city with about 280,000 inhabitants, has upcoming local elections….Seeking attention on national media, their party leader exclaimed once of the most horrendous racist remark voiced in an Austrian election campaign…. […]

16 01 2008
What Is New Age Music

[…] Who is Anybody? […]

18 01 2008
maxfanta

anybody is susanne winter.

20 01 2008
Graz has voted - any surprises? « Music & Politics in Vienna

[…] Despite all the racist rattling by FPÖ under Susanne Winter the past week (see also my blog entry here), the party remains the fifth strongest, nevertheless gaining votes (currently 11.15%). The strong […]

22 03 2008
MK

erratum

jochen graf is an austrian film director, living in vienna.

cheers

m.

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