‘Sharia police’ float causes a stir at Austrian carnival, police probe launched

© Wolfgang Rattay
Austrian police are investigating the appearance of a purple-colored “Sharia police” float during a carnival in a city near Vienna. The controversy follows a Nazi-era Tiger tank and “immigrant” locusts making appearances at carnivals in neighboring Germany over the weekend.

The “Sharia police” vehicle was one of 30 floats taking part in a carnival in the Austrian district of Maissau, some 60 kilometers northwest of the capital, Vienna. Some onlookers said the float was racist, as it had a number plate “Asylum 88,” which is a code often associated to “Heil Hitler” because the “HH” initials are the eighth letter in the alphabet.

Also in evidence were signs saying “Sharia police” and “Islam gives you wings,” a play on the “Red Bull Gives You Wings” slogan, which is associated with the Austria-based energy drink, The Local reports.

Inside the purple float was a figure of Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann. In January, he announced a plan to introduce a cap on the number of refugees arriving in Austria at 37,500. He added that over the next four years, Austria plans to take in a number of refugees amounting to no more than 1.5 percent of its population.

Maissau Mayor Josef Klepp repeatedly said that more guidelines should be made available in the future to let participants know what is and is not acceptable.

Austria and the south and east of Germany are currently celebrating carnival season and a couple of floats in Germany also made the headlines over the weekend.

The organizers of a festival in Bavaria came under fire after a model of Nazi Tiger tank inscribed with the words “asylum defense” and daubed with an Iron Cross was visible. More than 500 people gathered to watch the even in the town of Steinkirchen bei Pfaffenhofen.

The controversial float, which consisted of a cardboard cutout mounted on a car, took part in the carnival, which was organized by the OCV Steinkirchen association, which dates back to 1967.

Tobias Winkelmeir, the Chairman of OCV Steinkirchen, denied that the members of the club had any right-wing tendencies.

“Our association is neither right-wing, while the police had looked at the float before the start and said there was nothing wrong with it,” Winkelmeir said, as cited by Der Tagesspiegel.

A police spokesman said that they did nothing to stop the Tiger tank from taking part in the festival. Although they believed that it may have been infringing on the law regarding the incitement of religious hatred, but on the other hand, they did not want to limit artistic freedom.

That was not the end of the controversy. At another carnival in the state of Thuringia, a float called the “Balkan Express” had the words “the plague is coming” inscribed on its body. Behind the float were a number of green locusts, which were meant to represent refugees invading Germany.

The southern German state of Bavaria has been one of the first entry points for refugees entering Germany. The leader of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, who recently visited Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been one of Chancellor Merkel’s staunchest critics regarding her open-door refugee and migrant policy, which saw an estimated 1.1 million asylum seekers travel to Germany in 2015.

In January, Seehofer’s party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), sent Merkel a letter threatening to take the chancellor to the Constitutional Court if the federal government fails to secure Germany’s borders and reduce the influx of asylum seekers.