Islamophobia

Beautiful photo of New Year’s baby marred by unexpected wave of hate on social media

Naime and Alper Tamga with their daughter Asel, who was the first baby to be born in Vienna in 2018, and Dr. Ivone Saric-Milinic (right) and nurse Bettina Glaser. (Vienna Hospital Association)

A shocking outpouring of hate and racism greeted the family of the first baby to be born in Vienna in 2018, after a picture of the mother wearing a headscarf while holding the newborn was published in Austrian newspapers across the country. While public announcements of “New Year’s Babies” have long been a popular tradition in German-speaking countries, internet rights and refugee support groups said they had never seen such a furious response directed at an infant.

In the picture, Naime and Alper Tamga can be seen posing with their newborn daughter Asel, beaming with pride. But, initially at least, many of the comments posted on the social media pages of outlets that showed the picture were vindictive, cruel, and threatening.

“I’m hoping for a crib death. Deport the scum immediately,” wrote one user on Heute’s Facebook page, the newspaper reported. In addition to the hateful messages, however, were positive ones. And in a remarkable turn, Austrians organized themselves in a concerted effort to change the conversation.

Klaus Schwertner, secretary general of the Vienna chapter of the Roman Catholic charity Caritas, called on his followers to support the family on social media, as more than 17,000 people chimed in with congratulations, words of support, and love.

“Welcome to the world little one. May your life be blessed with love and peace,” wrote Facebook user Liesbeth Halbertsma. “I know it doesn’t always look like that in the world … but there is so much beauty and love. Sending you much love.”

According to Barbara Unterlechner, director of #GegenHassimNetz, a center that provides support and legal advice for victims of online hate speech, the arrival during the past two years of more than 145,000 migrants — including many from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan — had coincided with a growing number of Austrians who feel that all Muslims are “an enemy of our culture.”

Speaking with The New York Times, Unterlechner offered her thoughts on how to combat the anti-Muslim sentiment — and the impact of the country’s recent elections.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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