Otto Habsburg on Islam And Immigraion in Europe

translated by M.T.M. Childs

Rauscher: Dr. Habsburg, on your birthday, you are traveling to Bosnia-Herzegovina — where the downfall of the Danube Monarchy began in 1914.

Habsburg: But I don’t see myself in a downfall. When I look back on my life I have to say, so many dreams have come true. So many countries that were first occupied by the Nazis and then by the Soviets; history has come to a grand happy end.


Rauscher: Bosnia is mostly a Muslim country. How do you see Islam in Europe? After all, you are descended from “apostolic majesties.”

Habsburg: Thank you so much for this question! I’ve been a friend of Islam for a long time and have been a member of the Islamic Academy for many decades. I’ve always had the feeling that we will find each other, because Islam is a child of Christianity. Mohammed grew up in a Christian society, where he developed his new ideas.


Rauscher: Do you believe a modus vivendi between Islam and Christianity is possible?

Habsburg: Of course, we have a lot in common. It is also very smart that the Pope is making such an effort to develop an understanding with Islam; he himself has prayed with Muslims. He’s building bridges.


Rauscher: Another related problem is immigration. In Austria a strong line has been drawn on the deportation of Kosovars, etc. How do you, as the intellectual heir of a multi-ethnic empire, see the situation?

Habsburg: In relation to Europeans we should be positive. Kosovo is part of Europe, which is why we should be as liberal as possible.


Rauscher: Is Austrian policy too narrow-minded?

Habsburg: Old Austria traditionally acted very liberally, also new Austria now and again.  It’s almost understandable that there are waves up and down. I believe, however, that the basic position should be that these countries are a part of Europe. I’ve always been for generosity inside of Europe.


Rauscher: When you look back on your life, what was the greatest moment?

Habsburg: The darkest day was May 11, 1938 the occupation of Austria. The brightest moment was on that day in the summer of 1989, when— at our “pan-European picnic” on the Austrian-Hungarian border— the East German citizens poured into Austria.


Rauscher: That was not an unimportant facet of the collapse of communism.

Habsburg: You can say that again!


Hans Raucher is a political columnist at Der Standard (“RAU”) and author of several books, among them Das Buch Österreich. Texte, die man kennen muss (2005) and Die Bilder Österreichs. Ikonen unserer Identität (2006). Trans. M.T.M. Childs. The interview appears courtesy of Der Standard, where it was originally published in German on Nov. 17.

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