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Report warns of Brotherhood activism in Austria

Document says group seeks to foster a siege mentality within local communities

Vienna
Image Credit: Supplied picture
File picture of Vienna: A report shows that Muslim Brotherhood entities in Austria have purposely exaggerated anti-Muslim incidents and attitudes to foster a siege mentality within local communities.
Gulf News

Dubai: A government report has warned against increasing Muslim Brotherhood activism in Austria, expressing alarm as the group actively promotes a narrative “that, through its use of victimhood and justification of violence, creates a fertile environment for radicalisation” in the country.

According to the report, Muslim Brotherhood entities in Austria have purposely exaggerated anti-Muslim incidents and attitudes — which the report says unquestionably exist — to foster a siege mentality within local communities, arguing that the government and Western societies are hostile to them and to Islam in general.

“This dynamic has been particularly evident in Austria over the last few years … The spread of this narrative of victimhood mixed with justification of violence should be seen with concern given the massive rise in radicalisation seen throughout Europe during the last five years,” it says.

The 65-page report was commissioned by the Austrian Security Services, and prepared by Dr Lorenzo Vidino, the Director of the Programme on Extremism at George Washington University and an expert on Islam in Europe and North America, in cooperation with the University of Vienna and the Austrian Integration Fund. Vidino’s research over the past 15 years has focused on the mobilisation dynamics of Islamist militant networks and the activities of Muslim Brotherhood-inspired organisations in the West.

The Brotherhood, which is a designated terrorist organisation in the UAE, Egypt and several other countries in the Middle East, has been publicly labelled as a threat to the social cohesion of Austrian society by Austrian security services, according to the report.

“The Brotherhood’s narrative is problematic when it comes to its impact on integration and social cohesion. While Western Brotherhood spokespeople tend to publicly adopt more nuanced and less controversial views, some of the less visible members of the milieu in the West condemn Western societies as corrupt, immoral, and unjust,” the report said.

Such a dangerous stance by the group, the report noted, evolved in spite of the Austrian government’s constant efforts to make Muslim Brotherhood organisations privileged interlocutor within the Austrian Muslim community, funding many of their activities and entrusting them with teaching Islam in state schools and providing religious services to recently arrived refugees.

Tracing the history of the Brotherhood’s rise in Austria, the report said: “Various national branches of the Muslim Brotherhood have a long-established presence in Austria: some of their networks first appeared in the 1960s. Since their inception, Austrian-based Brotherhood networks have grown and developed, adapting their tactics and changing their priorities. They have directly or indirectly spawned several affiliate organisations. The issue is not without contention and political consequences … It is critically important for all European policymakers to determine whether the Muslim Brotherhood operates in their country, and if so, understanding how it operates and what its aims are. This understanding is particularly important during times of intense debates about extremism, massive migration, and integration of Islam in European societies.”

Outlining the overall structure of the outfit in Austria, the report classifies them into three categories — the Pure Brothers or direct members of various branches of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the Middle East who have established a presence in Europe; the Brotherhood Spawns or entities set up by individuals with strong personal ties to the Brotherhood but which operate independently; and the Organisations Influenced by the Brotherhood, which have dwelled in ideological surroundings that are very close to the terror group.

“Individuals and organisations that belong to each of the three categories have operated for decades in Austria, creating a sophisticated web of entities, charities, educational academies, and businesses, and obtaining a disproportionate level of visibility and power, considering the small number of Brotherhood members and sympathisers in the country,” says the report.

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