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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

Vienna’s first 2018 baby subjected to Islamophobic abuse

The family of newborn Asel Tamga was sent anti-Muslim abuse after their photograph appeared in several news outlets 

Naime and Alper Tamga with their daughter Asel, who was the first baby to be born in Vienna in 2018. Courtesy Vienna Hospital Association
Naime and Alper Tamga with their daughter Asel, who was the first baby to be born in Vienna in 2018. Courtesy Vienna Hospital Association

Austria’s President Alexander Van der Bellen has hit back at internet trolls who bombarded the country’s first baby to be born in 2018 with Islamophobic abuse.

A photograph of Asel Tamga, who was named the first Viennese baby of the year, appeared on the pages of several local news outlets with her father and hijab-wearing mother.

However, instead of congratulatory messages, Asel’s parents Naime and Alper Tamga were inundated with a torrent of racial abuse and threats calling for their daughter’s death and deportation.

Mr Van der Bellen, a former leader of the Austrian Green Party, intervened on a Facebook post on Sunday warning against hate speech.

"All men are born free and equal to dignity and rights,” the 73-year-old wrote. “Confidence and cohesion are greater than hatred and incitement. Welcome, dear Asel!”

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Mr Van der Bellen shared a message of support for the family from a Viennese Catholic charity, Caritas, which at the time of writing has over 35,000 likes.

“In the first hours of her life, this sweet girl was already the target of an unbelievable wave of violent, hateful online commentary,” Caritas’ Klaus Schwertner wrote on Facebook.

“It is a completely new dimension of online hate, targeting an innocent newborn.”

Austria has experienced a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment following the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers in the country fleeing conflict in Africa and the Middle East.

In 2017 the country’s far-right Freedom Party won 26% of the vote in the snap national election, resulting in the party becoming a coalition partner with the conservative People’s Party, which is led by Sebastian Kurz. Both parties made election promises to curb immigration.

Under the controversial agreement, which was made in December, the Freedom Party’s leader Heinz-Christian Strache became vice-chancellor while Mr Kurz was made chancellor.

Last week, Mr Strache caused outcry among liberal politicians in Austria after he called for refugees to be housed in army camps with night time curfews.

Austria is currently the only western European state with a far-right party in its government.

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