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Surveilling and Criminalizing Austrian Muslims: The Case of ‘Political Islam’

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.

Surveilling and Criminalizing Austrian Muslims The Case of Political Islam
Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer (L) and Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab address a press conference to announce the closure of ‘radical’ mosques November 2, 2020. JOE KLAMAR / AFP via Getty Images
 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

On November 2, 2020, an ISIS-sympathizer killed four people on the street in Vienna, Austria. Nine days later, the Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz presented a package of new laws, saying it was serving two goals: “consistent action against terrorists and dangerous persons, and secondly, decisive action against the ideology of political Islam, which forms the basis for terror.”1

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