Why does Austria follow the Muslim Brotherhood? | Islamophobia

In late May, the Austrian government Publish The addresses of more than 620 mosques and Muslim associations in Austria. According to the Ministry of Integration, its purpose is “to combat political ideology, not religion”.

This is the latest in a series of measures taken by the Austrian government to combat “political Islam”, and it has identified it as one of the main threats facing the country. In the process, the Austrian authorities began to target the real and imaginary Muslim Brotherhood.

Although various expert analyses claim that the organization does not pose a terrorist threat, its long unarmed history and other Western governments’ conclusions that it is not worthy of being classified as a terrorist organization, the Austrian government still regards it as a national security threat.

But banning the Brotherhood or convicting it will not make this country safer. This became especially apparent when the Secret Service was unable to prevent the homicide attack on November 2, 2020 due to its preoccupation with investigating the so-called Brotherhood members.

An Islamic Renaissance Organization

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, a school teacher in Egypt, as a religious revival movement that emphasizes education and social services. Albanna advocated the establishment of a more Islamic government and society and challenged colonial rule.

By the 1940s, the Brotherhood had more than one million members in Egypt. In the 1950s and 1960s, this movement influenced the establishment of other Islamic movements, and ultimately affected political parties in Muslim-majority countries such as Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, and Syria.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, some members, Sayyid Qutb (Sayyid Qutb), began to advocate for armed resistance against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (Gamal Abdel Nasser) against dissidents After the brutal suppression, the Muslim Brotherhood officially announced its abandonment of violence. In the following decades, it participated in the political process in Egypt, sending candidates in parliamentary elections. In the Gulf region, members of the Brotherhood were welcomed and lived freely, and even established branches in countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait.

In European countries, exiled members of the Brotherhood began to participate at the local and pan-European level, but never established an organization formally controlled by the Brotherhood leadership in Egypt. As a result, some institutions were influenced by the founding members but did not become formal affiliates.

The Arab Spring of 2011 opened up the political arena in some Arab countries, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in free elections. In Tunisia, the Baath Party, which is part of the Brotherhood, and in Egypt, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) became the ruling power.

The overthrow of the dictatorship with the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood and the call for greater political freedom alarmed some Gulf monarchies, who began to see it as a threat and took action to stop the wave of democracy sweeping the region.

The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia banned the Brotherhood on their territories and supported counter-revolutionary forces in Egypt and elsewhere, which led to a coup against the elected FJP President Mohamed Morsi. At the same time as the anti-fraternity movement in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also began lobbying Western countries to ban the organization. Prior to this, the organization It was not considered a threat to the West.

They insist that the Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, even though terrorist organizations like the Islamic State publicly call the organization and its leaders apostates.

There is no terrorist title in the West

One year after Egypt’s coup against the Brotherhood, British Prime Minister David Cameron asked Sir John Jenkins, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, to lead a government review of the organization to assess its beliefs, especially its belief in extremism and violence Position. The purpose of this report is to inform the British government of the Brotherhood’s policy.

The report was released in 2015 and concluded that although the Brotherhood pursues non-violent incremental political change, it may still be willing to use violence to achieve its goals. Jenkins’ conclusions were severely criticized by the British Foreign Affairs Special Committee, especially since it did not consider the coup against Morsi and the violent suppression of the organization. Despite the tremendous pressure from the Saudi and UAE governments, the report did not lead to any ban or terrorist designation of the Brotherhood.

Washington is also lobbying against the organization, and in 2015, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Mario Diaz-Barat introduced a bill to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. The legislation was not passed in Congress, but during Trump’s presidency, the problem reappeared.

According to Daniel Benjamin, the former counter-terrorism coordinator of the State Department, the government investigated it in 2017 and 2018, but concluded that such a designation had no basis. Experts from the CIA also objected that such naming “may encourage extremism,” while civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union worry that such actions “may lead to government attacks on American Muslim civil society.”

Austria opposes “Political Islam”

After launching the review of the Muslim Brotherhood in the United States and the United Kingdom in the mid-2010s, Austria followed suit. The Austrian Integration Fund and the Federal Constitutional Protection and Counter-Terrorism Office commissioned Lorenzo Vidino to write a report, George Washington Director of the University Extremism Program, he is known for his conspiracy theories against Islamic organizations. It concluded that “the Brotherhood promoted a narrative that created a fertile environment for radicalization through the use of victims and violent defense.”

The alliance between the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) came to power in December 2017, four months after the report was published. Within a few months after taking office, they decided to extend the extremist symbolism law to foreign radical and non-radical organizations including the Muslim Brotherhood. This effectively places the Brotherhood at the same threat level as Al-Qaida, Islamic State, and the PKK and other organizations designated as terrorists.

November 2020, succeeding predecessor Sympathy for the Islamic State After 4 people were killed and 23 injured in Vienna, the Austrian police launched an operation code-named “Luxor” to crack down on the allegedly Muslim Brotherhood network, attack homes, businesses and associations, and arrest several people. ten people.

This operation has nothing to do with the attack by armed elements, because it was the result of a large-scale intelligence collection that lasted more than a year and did not lead to any convictions. It may be because the prosecutors have not found specific evidence to prove that the criminal act was committed by the targeted person. Nevertheless, Austrian Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer described it as a success.

After the attacks and actions, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz Announce A package of measures to combat terrorism includes depriving suspects of their citizenship, closing mosques, and criminalizing “political Islam”. However, an independent committee set up by the government found that the Austrian Secret Service’s attention to “Operation Luxor” prevented them from focusing on the attackers and called the plan to ban “political Islam” “superfluous.” Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have also criticized the move.

Although ÖVP’s conservative ideology provided most of its support for its anti-Muslim movement, such intelligence operations may be related to foreign lobbying. The investigative reporter pointed out that although Operation Luxor was supposed to fight terrorist threats in Austria, the police were ordered to find money instead of weapons and explosives.

The prosecutor’s document authorizing the raid mentions actions that may “cause serious or long-term interference to public life in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Israel, or seriously damage economic life…in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Israel”, but not Austria. This begs the question, why the Austrian security agencies obeyed the orders of their Egyptian and Israeli colleagues when they could have tried to deal with actual terrorist threats on Austrian territory.

Marginalized Muslim Civil Society

The government’s anti-Muslim policies, especially Austria’s campaign against “political Islam” and the “Muslim Brotherhood” are disturbing because they may have devastating consequences for Muslim civil society and human rights organizations currently challenging Islamophobia in Europe.

If Austrian agents continue to use mainstream Muslim organizations as advocates of “political Islam,” such as the legally recognized Muslim religious groups in Austria, this will inevitably lead to growing differences between the Austrian state and the Muslim population. If activism and academic research on Islamophobia continue to be seen as threatening or conspiracy of some kind-as Vidino suggests-it will further marginalize Muslims and anti-racist activists and scholars .

The designation or de facto recognition of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization in European countries will set a precedent and encourage similar official terrorist designations in other parts of the European continent. This development will legitimize the brutal suppression of political opposition in many Muslim-majority countries, including the killing and imprisonment of democratically conscious individuals.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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