The Centre for “Documenting Crime” and Criminal Punishments … Austria leads a European trend to combat political Islam

File PhotoAPA Agence FrancePresse Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl left Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in the foreground and ViceChancellor HeinzChristian Strache in Vienna
File Photo:APA Agence France-Presse Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (left), Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz (in the foreground), and Vice-Chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, in Vienna

[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””] The Austrian authorities are adopting a strict political line towards extremist political Islam organizations on its soil, foremost of which is the Brotherhood. The policy went beyond revealing the activities, roles, and leaders of these organizations to specific steps to combat them, putting an end to their movements, and ending the phenomenon of parallel institutions that impede integration into society. In the program of the government that was sworn in, the ruling coalition parties, the people “center-right” and the green “left,” decided to tighten measures to combat extremist political Islam organizations, to the extent that Vienna was leading a clear and strict political line in Europe against these organizations.[/box]

The “Brotherhood” platform in Europe

The Brotherhood, the most prominent organization of political Islam in Austria, first appeared in Western countries in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the group’s leaders, most notably Youssef Nada and Said Ramadan, fled from the Arab countries to settle in the cities of Europe and North America.

According to the study “The Muslim Brotherhood in Austria” prepared by Lorenzo Vidino, the Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University with the participation of the Austrian University of Vienna and the Constitution Protection Authority “internal intelligence” in Austria.

“The Brotherhood inaugurated their presence in Austria in the 1960s, when Yusuf Nada and the other leader of the group, Ahmad al-Qadi, arrived in Vienna before the latter moved to the United States and established the group’s network there,” the study stated.

“The Brotherhood took advantage of the lack of mosques or organizations for Muslims in European cities, and they began to instill their presence by creating small places for prayer and meetings, then umbrella institutions,” the study added. “After that, other political Islam organizations, such as the Turkish Islamic Union,” Atib “emerged. , Lebanese Hezbollah, and others. “

While a document of the Austrian Parliament dated February 6, 2015, consisting of two pages, stated that the Brotherhood “has established itself in Austria, during the past decades, and has a vast network of institutions and agencies that raise suspicious activities.

The study continued, “The most prominent Brotherhood institutions in Austria are the Association of Islamic Culture, the Islamic Institute, and the Austrian Islamic Youth Organization.”

And revealing the group’s movements in Austria, Professor of Oriental Studies at the University of Vienna, Rodger Locker said in statements, “The group operates as a closed secret organization, and Austria takes a base for its activities in the Arab countries and Europe.” He added, “The Brotherhood holds secret meetings in the Austrian territories in the presence of its leaders in Europe, and revolves around the group’s activities on the continent and ways to expand its spheres of influence.”

He continued, “The Brotherhood is the most prominent organization of political Islam, but it has a strong relationship, reaching the alliance, with the Turkish” Atib‏ . “

Infiltration of the political system

The matter does not stop there, as Peter Pilz, the former deputy parliamentarian and leader of the opposition “Now” list, said in an interview with the official Austrian News Agency “APA” last March that the political system in Austria was infiltrated by the Turkish Islamic groups and the Muslim Brotherhood‏.

“The dangers associated with political Islam in Austria have increased dramatically,” Pilz said, adding that “the Turkish Islamic Union” Atip “and the Muslim Brotherhood are the two main dangers.” “Atib and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Turkish Muslim community, has cemented the presence of political Islam in the country, and it has come to infiltrate our political system,” he added.

“There are attempts by the Brotherhood to get closer to the ruling People’s Party (center right) and the Social Democratic Party (center-left / main opposition party),” he said. “We must also consider whether the Brotherhood affects in one way or another the legislation in Austria,” he added.

Confrontation: gradual and substantial measures

In the face of the threat of the group and other political Islam organizations, last March 1, the law banning the slogans of extremist organizations in Austria entered into force. The list of prohibited slogans included the slogans and flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Turkish Gray Wolves group.

With the end of negotiations for the new ruling coalition, which is scheduled to govern the country until 2024, a few days ago, it became clear that the People’s and Green Party decided to go ahead with measures to confront the Brotherhood and extremist political Islam organizations in Austrian lands.

“The government program stipulates that measures be taken to deal with the currents of extremist Islam and extremist religious groups, to preserve the security of the country, and to ensure that there are no parallel societies in it,” Chancellor Sebastian Cortes said in press statements last Thursday.

Indeed, the government’s program, which I found a copy of to Levent News, included the establishment of a “Documentation of Political Islam” center similar to the “Austrian Resistance Archive,” which specializes in documenting and analyzing the crimes of the extreme right.

The Center for Documentation of Political Islam analyzes the trends and movements of extremist Islamic organizations and documents their crimes. According to the government program, the Center for Documentation of Political Islam will be an independent institution directly supported by the Austrian government, which will publish new books, articles and research, and archive existing publications on political Islam.

The Center is also in charge of drawing up a complete plan of action to combat extremist Islamic organizations, led by the Brotherhood and the Lebanese Hezbollah, in the Austrian territories.

In addition to the Center, the government program stipulated in the section on achieving justice that a legislative amendment be made to increase the penal penalties for crimes of religiously motivated extremism, especially the crimes of political Islam organizations.

As for integration, the government wants to impose governmental supervision and control of schools and centers for children’s “nurseries” affiliated with political Islam organizations, as a first step to prevent the emergence of parallel entities that hinder integration into society.

Austria leads Europe

In exclusive statements, Lorenzo Vidino, the most prominent Western scholar on political Islam affairs, said: “For the past fifty years, Austria has been a haven for the Brotherhood and other organizations, its leadership and elements, and a base for its activities in Arab countries and Europe.”

“These organizations took advantage of Austria’s international status as a politically neutral country, having good infrastructure, a free press, good investment opportunities, and an effective banking system.” He pointed out that “the group’s great influence in Austria, in the past decades, stemmed from a simple equation, which is its financial strength, its great activity, and the previous governments’ dealings with it as a partner.”

However, he said, “The image of the Brotherhood and other organizations of political Islam has changed a lot in Austria during the last period.” He continued, “There has become a general consensus in the security services, and in the corridors of politics that these organizations represent security and social danger.”

He added, “These organizations are no longer a partner of the government or a mediator for communication with the Islamic community in Austria (700,000 people). Rather, there is a hostile view against it in the government and the security authorities.”

He added, “Austria is currently leading a hostile and strict approach from the Brotherhood and other extremist organizations in Europe, and considers it a threat to society, and will continue to take measures that limit its influence and hinder its activities.”

“The situation has changed in Austria since the Brotherhood study was launched in Austria in 2017, where awareness has increased in society, government and the police about the ideas, political agendas and organizations of political Islam,” he said.

Because of this study and the aggressive approach of the authorities, the Brotherhood has lost much of its influence in Austria over the past two years, and ordinary citizens have become aware of the group’s role causing problems,” he added.

But Rodger Locker highlighted the main problems facing the Austrian authorities in the case of combating the currents of political Islam, saying that “there is a major crisis facing the work of law enforcement authorities regarding Islamic extremist groups, which is the lack of logistical support.”

“There are no members of the security forces who are fluent in the Arabic language, and therefore the authorities cannot know what is going on in the corridors of the Brotherhood and the currents of political Islam or conduct effective investigations into their activities,” he said.

He continued, “I also doubt the ability of the Constitutional Protection Authority,” Internal Intelligence “to deal effectively with this file, and I do not think it is monitoring Brotherhood institutions.” “But the Brotherhood must be kept under control and consider the group’s activities a priority.”

The Constitutional Protection Authority puts under its control organizations and individuals who pose a significant threat to democracy and aim to undermine the political system.

Since 2014, European countries have been trying to investigate the Brotherhood’s activities, such as Britain, which has conducted a comprehensive review of the Brotherhood’s file, while other countries such as Germany have put the group’s institutions under the control of the Constitution Protection Authority. Still, Austria remains the strongest policymaker against the group and other extremist organizations.