Austria: Do not link religion with terror, faith leaders warn

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Austria: Do not link religion with terror, faith leaders warnAfter a hijab and face veil ban, and ban on foreign funding of religious groups, populist politicians have upped the anti-Islam rhetoric since a gunmen killed four people in the capital Vienna.

Right-wing Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced new measures, which would make “political Islam” a criminal offense.

Bishop Bernhard Heitz believes only justice could prevent terrorism, and that anti-Islam sentiments would be counter-productive.

“Muslim representatives, just like representatives of other religions, have distanced themselves from recent attacks in Paris, Nice, Dresden and Vienna… far-right rhetoric and tolerating anti-Islam sentiments would be counterproductive,” he told Anadolu Agency.

“The idea of monitoring a specific population group, in this case the Muslim population of Austria, would undermine mutual trust among the people, social cohesion and peace, and therefore would be unacceptable for all.”

Imam Ramazan Demir, who has been working with imprisoned Muslims across Austria for many years, said terrorism and violence cannot be associated with any religion or ethnic group, emphasizing that “acts of violence committed in the name of Islam” mostly harm Muslims.

“There was a Muslim among the victims of the terrorist attack in Vienna. Terrorists don’t make a distinction when it comes to killings,” he said.

He added that a lack of defining the concept of “political Islam,” is a cause of concern among the over 500,000-strong Muslim community in Austria.

“They are worried if their rights and freedoms will be restricted,” Demir said.

Chief Rabbi Schlomo Hofmeister said the terrorist attack was an attempt to harm values such as tolerance, trust and togetherness, warning that confusion over what constitutes “political Islam” could lead to discrimination against the believers.

“Everybody understands something different from the expression “political Islam” because it has not been defined,” he said. “First of all, the term needs to be explained…’political Islam’ and Islam as a religion must be clearly distinguished.”

[Photo: People holding banners – which says Muslims and refugees welcome – gather to show solidarity with asylum seekers and refugees at Heldenplatz square in Vienna, Austria on October 03, 2020. Photographer: Aşkın Kıyağan/Anadolu Agency]

By Askin Kiyagan