The German Central Council of Muslims sharply criticized the Austrian government for launching a controversial digital “Islam map”, calling it “irresponsible”.
“With battle cries like ‘Political Islam’ and such actions, anti-Muslim racists and religious extremists will be strengthened at the same time, while millions of Muslims are put under general suspicion,” Aiman Mazyek, head of the council, told the WAZ newspaper.
“The loser of such irresponsible actions is democracy and the values of our free society in Europe,” he added.
On Tuesday, Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab defended a contentious “Islam map” amid mounting criticism within the country’s Muslim community.
“This is by no means a general suspicion of Muslims. It’s about the common struggle against political Islam as a breeding ground for extremism,” Raab said in an interview with the German daily WELT newspaper.
Raab launched an Internet website last week called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 620 mosques, associations and officials and their possible connections abroad.
Many Muslims feel stigmatized and their security threatened by the publication of addresses and other details amid growing Islamophobia in Austria, especially in the wake of a deadly terror attack in Vienna last November.
Reacting to the ongoing controversy, a leading Austrian political scientist, Prof. Heinz Gaertner, of Vienna University told Anadolu Agency that this map is “discriminating” against Muslims.
Gaertner warned of what he called “vigilante justice” against Muslims in Austria.
“It is only a matter of time before there will be violent attacks on Islamic institutions,” he said.
“Such public labeling of certain groups was always the beginning and the basis of humiliation, even persecution,” Gaertner added.
Meanwhile, Germany’s co-ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party of Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed support for the disputed initiative of the Austrian government.
“We don’t need any artificial outrage about the Austrian map of political Islam. We need a serious debate on how to deal with Islamist extremism in Germany,” Thomas Strobl, interior minister of the southern Baden-Wurttemberg state, told the daily WAZ.