A politician has described the prophet Mohamed asa "child abuser" and warned that Austria faces an "Islamic immigration tsunami" that will make half of the country Muslim within two decades.
Susanne Winter, a lawyer, is a member of Austria's conservative Freedom Party. Her smiling face on campaign placards in the southern city of Graz is accompanied by the slogans "no home for radical Islam" and "she hits the nail on the head".
Leaders of the country's Islamic groups said they could not rule out "violent protests" as a result of her remarks. The Foreign Ministry was reported to have issued an alert to its embassies in Islamic countries.
Mainstream parties distanced themselves from Ms Winter. Walter Ferk, a leading Social Democrat and deputy mayor of Graz, said her remarks were "pure racism and obvious discrimination against a community that has been recognised in Austria for many years". He pointed out that Graz had the smallest population of Muslims in Austria.
Ms Winter, 50, is a candidate for her party in this weekend's local elections in Graz. She told a rally of some 3,000 supporters on Sunday that Islam was a "totalitarian system" which deserved to be "chucked back to where it came from: on the other side of the Mediterranean".
Adding that Graz was threatened by what she described as "an Islamic immigration tsunami" she said half of Austria's population would be Muslim "within 20 to 30 years". She ended her speech with comments on Mohamed. Citing references to the religious leader consummating a marriage to a nine-year-old, she said: "By today's standards, Mohamed would be considered a child abuser."
On Monday, Ms Winter followed up her remarks. In an interview with the daily newspaper Osterreich, she said child abuse was "widespread among Islamic men" and that Mohamed had written the Koran during "attacks of epilepsy".
Her speech is reported to have received enthusiastic applause. Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom Party's deputy leader, is said to have clapped loudly as Ms Winter made her comments on Islam.
Speculation has begun that Ms Winter has made herself a target for Islamic extremists. Anas Schakfeh, president of Austria's Islamic community, said the mood among Muslims was furious. He said: "I aim for conciliation, but I cannot rule out the possibility of violent protests."
Omar al-Rawi, another Islamic spokesman said: "Islam-bashing has reached a level which is stomach-turning and makes one want to be sick."
They received support from non-Muslim politicians. A spokesman for the conservative People's Party said the remarks were an "unbelievable transgression which all democrats should condemn outright".
In the 2006 general election, the Freedom Party won 13 per cent of vote. At a rally on Sunday, the former party leaderJörg Haider, also made anti-Islamic remarks. He welcomed his supporters with the greeting "Grüss Gott" or "God bless you" before adding: "Fortunately, we are still able to say Grüss Gott rather than 'Allah is mighty'."Reuse content