Atika Shubert, CNN, December 2, 2016
At the stroke of midnight in Vienna city center, members of Austria’s so-called Identity Movement slipped on high-visibility vests and boarded a crane to pull off an audacious political prank: Draping a huge black cloth resembling a giant niqab–the Islamic face veil–onto a 90-meter-tall statue of the Habsburg ruler, Empress Maria Theresa.
In case their political motivations were in any doubt, they also tacked up a sign that read “Islamization. No thank you!” and signed it with the symbol of the Identity Movement.
Vienna police were less than amused to wake up to the sight of a national monument draped in such a provocative political protest–but no one has been arrested for the stunt.
Martin Sellner, however, was pleased: “We try to teach patriots in Europe methods of non-violent action. That’s our main principle. No violence. No real hate speech.”
A clean-cut 27-year-old graphic designer, wearing black-framed glasses and brightly-colored shirts advertising Identity Movement slogans such as “Europa Nostra”–“Our Europe”–Sellner has been called the “hipster” of the far-right.
“We see ourselves as patriots, not neo-Nazis,” he says. “We don’t hate immigrants. But we also don’t want to see the country change and end up minorities in our countries. We wanted to express this opinion without anti-Semitism, without the racism of the old right.”
It is a carefully cultivated image: a sunny veneer masking a political ideology centered on a white Christian identity which rejects immigration and globalization.
Influx of refugees
“My generation was never asked if we want this mass immigration, this Islamization and population replacement in this country,” he explains over several cups of Viennese coffee. “We were born into a society that believes we are racist for simply saying that we are becoming a minority in our own country.”
In a series of posts on YouTube, Sellner suggests white Christians are on the verge of “extinction,” increasingly marginalized by growing numbers of migrants in what he calls the “Great Replacement.”
“My biggest fear is that at some point demographics could kill democracy,” he says, “that our society by mass immigration becomes such an ethnically fragmented society that a real democracy is not possible anymore because there is no common ground of values, history and identity.”
Sellner is a big fan of US President-elect Donald Trump, whom he calls “God Emperor.” He hopes Trump’s election victory–on a platform that included plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and a ban on Muslim immigrants–will further inspire the far-right across the continent.
The Identity Movement began in France, but has since spread to Austria, Denmark and Germany. It appeals to a younger generation seeking to distance itself from the openly racist, xenophobic far-right parties of the past.
Sellner insists that the movement is not racist but “ethno-pluralist”–it doesn’t believe that white Christian culture is superior, he says, but that globalization is forcing countries to adopt a multiculturalism that destroys the ethnic and cultural values of individual states.