In this commentary, I deal with how the governing conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) managed successfully to fundamentally reshape the state’s politics towards Muslim communities by introducing the terminology of ‘political Islam’ in the public discourse. I show how this affected the political discourse, how the governing ÖVP has been using institutions to produce knowledge in order to criminalize Muslimness, and how this also affected the work of the domestic intelligence agency and subsequently police operations. I argue that by introducing the notion of ‘political Islam’ came a criminalization of vocal and/or organized Muslims as well as anti-racist actors.
Today, a number of European states’ policies on religion aim at creating a nationalized Islam. In many Western European countries, the Ministries of the Interior have institutionalized ‘dialogue platforms’ to discuss issues of Islam, society, inclusion and extremism with Muslim actors. This reveals the implicit assumptions of these governments when talking to Muslims. The underlying message is that Muslims pose a security threat to the state and society, a perception that is manifested in many countries, and that Muslims are seen simultaneously as a threat and an ally. This article analyzes the Ministry of Interior’s attempts to institutionalize Islam in the cases of Austria, Germany, and France and it compares these states in order to investigate different modes of operation, similarities and differences.
In the face of Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WWII, many right wing and centrist politicians are using Islamophobia as a way to leverage policy-making in the West, to the detriment of human rights. The refugee crisis is just that –not an attempt by Muslims to ‘take over’ or ‘take down’ the West, but a crisis of people –of all religious and ethnic backgrounds– to flee from terror. At the same time, it reflects a crisis within Europe, which fights with itself how to define Europe in terms of openness and closeness to refugees knocking at the doors of Europe.