At least two Austrian states, Austria and Salzburg, are set to place emergency locks on buildings within their borders to help police cope with an increasing number of attacks by far-right extremists.
One of the state governments is focusing on its Muslim population to cope with the violence.
“Some 1.5 million Muslims live in Austria in mostly small villages and small towns,” said Salzburg Mayor Markus Pierer. “There’s a clear risk that someone will come up with a crazy idea. In the future, there will be a real possibility that mosques are attacked.”
Mr. Pierer said that an incident in July in which three teenagers set fire to a small mosque in Salzburg showed that extremists already had their eyes on far-right groups in his city.
Asked whether the Muslim population should feel assured that their religious freedoms were being protected, he said: “In this case we can assume that they are well protected.”
The new measures, aimed at identifying potential attacks, require approval by the national government. Last week, police told politicians in Salzburg and Vienna that the national government had received nearly 400 threats against Islamic institutions. Austria has produced some of Europe’s toughest anti-terror laws. The country has seen hundreds of deaths in a wave of Islamic militant attacks over the past few years.
Salzburg itself has seen an uptick in far-right attacks in recent years. When a man attacked a mosque and fanned a fire in January, one of the attackers left a sign proclaiming: “This mosque is part of the ISP concentration camp.”
Austria has long had a problem with far-right extremists. In 2012, after the overthrow of the regime in Ukraine, a small group of Austrian far-right activists took to the streets with “All is forgiven, You Will Return” and “Independence Day” signs. Members of Salzburg’s 2nd Commando Battalion also attacked Muslims in 2007.
Former interior minister Wolfgang Sobotka came under attack for comments he made comparing black people to monkeys, but he is not the only member of the Austrian government to have voiced similar views. In 2016, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz told an audience at a gathering of far-right intellectuals: “There is something about life, even violent things, that is idealized in some countries. I like Slovakia, Germany and Sweden — that’s not easy in today’s world. We would like to hate someone, and we hate certain people.”