Europe

Austria: Operation against Muslims causes backlash

Freedom of speech only exists for Charlie Hebdo, not for Muslim activists who oppose Islamophobia, says Austrian activist

Askin Kiyagan   | 11.11.2020
Austria: Operation against Muslims causes backlash

VIENNA

The detention of well-known activists and academics in Austria under the guise of “combating terrorism” has caused a backlash.

Although the Interior Ministry claimed that the operations carried out on Monday were against terrorist organizations and those financing them, rights activists have called them a cover-up.

Austrian intelligence’s lack of action despite having critical information regarding the attacker who killed four people and injured 22 in a mass shooting in Vienna last week has received scathing criticism.

On Monday, some 60 addresses were raided and 30 Muslims, including many prominent academics and activists, were detained. Some of those detained in the operation, which the government reported as a major blow to terrorism, were released in the evening of the same day.

Activist I.R.I. who was briefly detained recalled his ordeal.

I.R.I, who has led demonstrations against Egypt's military dictator Abdulfettah al-Sisi, said that words fail to describe the experiences of many Muslims detained with him that day.

I.R.I, who did not want his name to be disclosed because the investigation was ongoing, said that the police broke into their house early morning. They entered their bedrooms with long-barreled guns treating them like terrorists.

"If the police wanted to interrogate me it was enough to send a letter or knock at my door. I would have opened the door, but they treated us like terrorists,” said I.R.I.

I.R.I. said these operations could occur in the countries ruled by dictators but not in the heart of Europe.

The activist refuted Interior Minister Karl Nehammer's claims that the operations were unrelated to last week's terrorist attack.

"No, the police raids of the previous day were made to cover up the mistakes of the Interior Ministry."

Austrian activist Michael Probsting said that the operation in which dozens of Muslims were detained is a clear indication of their determination to suppress religion and world views, which the government is dissatisfied with, as in France.

“Freedom of speech exists only for Charlie Hebdo and those who hate Islam. However, freedom of thought is denied to those who defend the rights of Muslims and who are against Islamophobic racism. It is a big scandal,” said Probsting.

“I am not a Muslim but it doesn’t matter. Muslims and non-Muslims should act together to defend basic democratic rights,” he added.

Speaking at a news conference in Vienna last week, Interior Minister Nehammer said the assailant, who was killed in a police operation after the attack, was a sympathizer of the Daesh/ISIS terror group.

The gunman, later identified as Kujtim Fejzulai, had both Austrian and Macedonian citizenship. He traveled to Slovakia in search of ammunition but was turned down because he had no gun license.

This information was known by the Austrian intelligence but it was not shared with the prosecutors, Nehammer added.

*Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak

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