Council of Europe Calls on Austria to Withdraw “Islam Map”

The Council of Europe has called on Austria to withdraw its controversial “Islam Map”, denouncing it as “demonizing” Muslims.

“The publication of the map is hostile to Muslims and potentially counterproductive,” the European human rights body said in a statement.

The map serves “existing grievances” and is considered by many Muslims to be “highly discriminatory,” the statement added.

“They feel stigmatized and threatened in their security by the publication of addresses and other details.”

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Austria’s government has seen backlash for launching its so-called “Islam Map” website that shows the locations of more than 600 mosques and Muslim associations across the country.

The map has been co-created by the University of Vienna and Austria’s Documentation Centre of Political Islam.

Muslims Too

Austrian Muslims have also condemned this act, describing it as “demonizing” the religious minority.

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“The Austrian state is failing in its duty to treat Muslims fairly,'” Miqdaad Versi, a management consultant and media spokesperson for the Muslim Council wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

“Its ‘Islam map’ was outrageous & seems to have facilitated the demonization of Muslims under the rubric of only targeting ‘political Islam,” he added.

“The banners are an “example of the dangers of state-sponsored Islamophobia in Austria,” he said.

“The far-right government published a map of all mosques & now signs are being put up near ordinary mosques.”

Farid Hafez, a prominent Austrian Muslim academic, also condemned the new signs.

Anti-Muslim Policies

Of Austria’s 8.75 million people, an estimated 700,000 people identify as Muslims.

The racist sentiment against Muslims in Austria doubled last year compared to 2019, according to a report by the Austrian human rights group SOS Mitmensch.

Alexander Pollak, the spokesperson for SOS Mitmensch, said that a recent survey showed that 35% of the public has a negative opinion about Muslims, while 40% support the idea that Muslims should not have equal rights with Austrians.

The Austrian government had prepared a controversial “anti-terror” law in late 2020 having anti-Islam motives, however, it was later revised by using the phrase “religiously motivated extremism” instead of “political Islam.”

The government also adopted a bill preventing girls younger than 10 from wearing hijab in 2019, and this bill had since been challenged by two children and their parents.

The measure was passed in May 2019 under the previous coalition of the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), just days before that government collapsed due to a corruption scandal.