Europe

Racist attacks on rise in Austria since release of controversial 'Islam map'

'All our concerns have proven true,' says head of Austrian Islamic community group representing 800,000 Muslims

Aşkın Kıyağan   | 06.06.2021
Racist attacks on rise in Austria since release of controversial 'Islam map'

VIENNA

Racist attacks and labeling have dramatically increased since Austria released a controversial "Islam Map" last month, the head of a Muslim community group said on Saturday.

"Attacks against Muslims rose after this incident. Ugly signs were hung on our mosques," said Umit Vural, president of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGO).

"We had said that this website must be taken offline as soon as possible -- that it could be dangerous," Vural told Anadolu Agency. "I'm sorry, but all our concerns have proven true."

After the digital map identifying the locations of more than 600 mosques and associations around Austria was unveiled May 27, racist attacks on Muslims increased, especially against mosques, which have become a target of racist groups,

Incendiary anti-Muslim signs have reportedly been hung in mosques in various cities, especially in the capital of Vienna, in the past two days.

Vural said that while the map was not a new phenomenon, the government's continued backing of the project via its Documentation Center of Political Islam had taken the issue to a new level.

He noted that the map, which could be taken to show that "all Muslims are dangerous," was prepared using one-sided data, with officials naming any Muslim a representative of "Political Islam" as they pleased.

Requests for the correction of information on the map, meanwhile, were ignored by the team that conducted the study, said Vural.

- ‘Muslims are treated differently’

Vural underlined his group had been unable to explain to authorities why various policies, such as the ban on headscarves in primary schools and the establishment of the Documentation Center of Political Islam, was wrong.

"We see very clearly that Muslims are treated differently. If we're an officially recognized religion here, we want the same treatment as the other 15 faith communities, we don't want different or special treatment," he said

Vural also underlined that Muslims are a part of Austria and that any problem could be resolved through dialogue.

- Emphasis on identity politics

Martin Weinberger, an activist in Austria, said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and his administration was prioritizing identity politics, ignoring some elements of society to the benefit of a specific identity, which he said peaked with the release of the map.

Weinberger said that by using the term "political Islam," the government was trying to portray Muslims as potential suspects, while Muslims had to face various "intent-reading" measures to prove they were not proponents of "political Islam."

"The Islamic map was not supported by the University of Vienna because it is contrary to science," Weinberger said, adding that the ban on headscarves in primary schools and the placement of Israeli flags in state buildings were manifestations of identity politics.

“It's also against the law, we have a constitution, and that constitution needs to be respected. For this reason, we need to raise our voice very strongly to prevent this policy that endangers Muslims and divides the country."

Austrian officials have defended the map, launched online by the Austrian Integration Ministry, amid mounting criticism within the country's Muslim community.

"This is by no means a general suspicion of Muslims. It's about the common struggle against political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism," Integration Minister Susanne Raab told the German WELT newspaper on Tuesday.

IGGO, which represents the interests of roughly 800,000 Muslims, warned against stigmatizing all Muslims living in that country "as a potential danger to society and the democratic legal order in the country."

*Writing by Merve Berker

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