The center-right People’s Party (OVP) and Green Party government in Austria are preparing to institute a controversial surveillance program on Muslims in the country in a supposed bid to fight against so-called “political Islam.”
AA.com (h/t Marvin W) In the initiative announced by the government in January, various groups continued to push back against the continued pursuit of anti-Muslim and foreign policies that had begun under the previous far-right government.
The OVP announced that a planned documentation center would be established for “combating anti-Semitism, racism and religion-motivated extremism” and would only carry out suspicionless surveillance on elements of “political Islam.” The announcement drew much criticism from academics, rights groups and coalition partner Green Party lawmakers.
With these centers, the government, which plans to observe all Muslim associations, mosques and cultural activities, will decide which institutions to cooperate with. The first and only documentation center was established in Austria in 1963 to combat Nazism and conduct research on Neo-nazi formations.
Farid Hafez from Georgetown University said Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz concept of “political Islam” makes it a more useful tool against Muslims, and noted that previous mosque closures and headscarf bans had also been associated with political Islam. With this logic, any institution, person or religious activity could be associated with political Islam and subjected to various restrictions and obstacles, added Hafez.
Social Austria of the Future (SOZ) party chairman Hakan Gordu said “the documentation center would attack Islamic values and be led by purely biased experts. The government could easily label a person or institution with political Islam. And a person who is interested in politics and defends the rights of Muslims can be considered as a manifestation of political Islam in their eyes.
In 2018, Austria’s crackdown on radical mosques and imams caused outrage among Muslims. But the government did it anyway.
In 2015, Austria passed legislation aimed at combatting the growing influence of radical Islam, which Muslims claim is discriminatory against them.