Austria agrees to ban ‘political Islam’ as it unveils broad new anti-terror measures

A central register of imams will also be created.

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. (Michael Gruber/Getty Images)

Austria plans to introduce a series of anti-terrorism measures following last week’s deadly attack in Vienna, including the criminalization of political interpretations of Islam deemed to encourage violent extremism.

Armed Austrian police officers stand guard in Vienna following a shooting on November 2, 2020. (Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that the measures intended to protect society from extremists that he described as “ticking time bombs” on Wednesday.

The proposals include the capability to keep individuals convicted of terror offenses behind bars for life, facilitate electronic surveillance of people convicted of terror-related crimes upon release, and criminalize political activity that encourages violence.

Kurz said the steps, which will be brought to a vote in parliament in December, take a two-pronged approach, aiming at both terror suspects and the ideology that drives them.

“In the fight against political Islam – the ideological basis behind it – we are going to create a criminal offense called ‘political Islam’ to be able to move against those who aren’t terrorists but are preparing the ground for it,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

He also said the government planned to simplify shutting down associations or mosques deemed to play a role in radicalization and to enable the public to report potential “jihadist” activities on an online platform.

A central register of imams will also be created.

Also, among the measures is a scheme that would make it possible for authorities to strip people of Austrian citizenship if they are sentenced to terror-related offenses.

The Green party, now in alliance with Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP), had previously condemned the concept of preventive detention while in opposition.

Background.

(Joe Klamar / AFP – Getty Images)

On the 2nd of November, an attacker killed four people in central Vienna before being shot dead by police. Twenty others, including a police officer, were injured.

Authorities in Austria have identified the suspect as 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, a dual national of North Macedonia and Austria who had a previous conviction for joining Daesh in Syria.

Aftermath.

On Monday, almost 1,000 police and intelligence service officers raided homes, businesses, and associations allegedly tied to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, seizing millions of euros in cash across four provinces.

This photo, taken on November 9, 2020, in Graz, Austria, shows the Liga Kulturverein, where a police raid, dubbed Operation Luxor, took place in the early morning. (AFP)

Prosecutors insisted the raids were not connected to the attack last week but were the result of an investigation stretching back more than a year.

The attack in Vienna followed an attack in Nice, France, in which four people were killed.

French security officers at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Nice after a terrorist attack in Nice on October 29, 2020. (AFP / VALERY HACHE)

In the wake of various assaults, France has also begun to close mosques and is cracking down on the organizations it suspects are spreading hate.

However, there are fears of collective punishment and rising Islamophobia, especially as BarakaCity, a prominent charity, was dissolved in late October.

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