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Islamic forum organizers look to Vienna

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BERLIN, Sept. 28 (JTA) — Organizers of an extremist Islamic conference banned in Berlin are hoping to move their event to Vienna. Fadi Mahdi, deported earlier this month from Germany to Beirut, told the Spiegel Online magazine that the event, billed as the first Arabic Islamic congress in Europe, should take place in the Austrian capital. Protesters, in an open letter posted on an Austrian Web site, http://www.juedische.at, called on Vienna Mayor Michael Haupl to prohibit the event from taking place there. They quoted the Islamist congress organizers as calling for a “worldwide movement against American and Zionist Nazism” to join together “with pride in our martyrs.” The signatories asked Haupl to “make it clear to the Austrian people that supporters of violence and terror are not welcome in Vienna.” They might get their wish. As recently as Sept. 20, Austrian President Heinz Fischer assured Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center that he would take steps to ensure that the conference would not take place in Vienna. “The Germans do not want it and neither do we,” Fischer told Hier, according to a news release from the Wiesenthal Center. Hier and Berlin authorities were concerned that the event’s motto, “Stand up and resist,” was a thinly veiled call for violence. According to the German daily newspaper Die Welt, event organizer Mahdi, a Muslim, is spokesperson for the International Movement Against American and Zionist Globalization and Domination. His co-organizer, Gabriel Daher, is a Christian of Syrian background who has been living in Berlin for 26 years. At a recent event marking the fourth anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Daher reportedly called suicide bombing “an act of the most highly esteemed self-defense and liberation.” In a posting Saturday on the Islamic group’s Web site, Daher blamed the “groundless turbulence” over the event on pressure by the Wiesenthal Center on the German government. There have been Arabic Islamic conferences in the past, but always in Arabic countries, according to Die Welt. Among the conference’s supporters have been Saddam Hussein, Egyptian Islamic extremist groups and Hezbollah.

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