An Austrian cardinal, who is one of the favorites to become the next pope, just claimed "many Muslims" desire an Islamic conquest of Europe.
Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schonborn made the controversial comments while speaking at the festival of the “Holy Name of Mary,” which is a commemoration of the victory over the Ottoman Empire during the Battle of Vienna in 1683.
Schonborn prayed for mercy on Europe as its people, according to the cardinal, "are in danger of forfeiting our Christian heritage.” And then he went on to suggest that Muslims want to take over the continent and its religious legacy.
“Will there now be a third Islamic attempt to conquer Europe? Many Muslims think that and want that, and they say ‘Europe is at the end,’” he said, as cited by the Archdiocese of Vienna.
The 71-year-old cardinal has proved to be a clear front-runner during previous papal conclaves since 2013, which only makes the impact of his latest statement even more significant to his audience.
The theory of a possible Islamic conquest in the Western world is one long used by Islamophobes to fuel their anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Most recently, in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis, the idea of a Muslim invasion has been used to reject asylum by several politicians. For instance, in January, the Czech president claimed the migration crisis in Europe is a Muslim Brotherhood ploy to “gain control of Europe.”
Notorious American political commentator and Islamophobe Pamela Geller also labeled the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe as “invasion.”
However, these fears mostly stoked by xenophobhes are inaccurate.
“The influx of refugees (equivalent to just 0.37 percent of the EU's population since 2012) poses little to no threat,” Khaled Diab, an award-winning Egyptian-Belgian journalist, wrote for Al Jazeera last year.
In fact, he Diab cited Brookings Institute analysis according to which the refugee influx can have “a net positive effect on host economies.”