Austria’s government is facing backlash for launching an “Islam Map” website that shows the locations of more than 600 mosques and Muslim associations across the country.
The map is intended to “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” Integration Minister Susanne Raab said Thursday. But critics fear that it could lead to hate crimes and argue that it stigmatizes Muslims.
“Imagine if we had a Judaism map or a Christianity map in Austria,” Muslim Austrians Initiative chairman Tarafa Baghajati told broadcaster ORF.
Officials categorize the map as a tool in the fight against “political Islam,” a broad term that Austria’s government uses to refer to any Islamist movement that strives to restructure society according to religious ideals that contradict democratic principles.
But the organizations listed include cultural centers for Bosnian and Albanian immigrants, youth organizations and sports clubs, often with no evidence of links to extremism.
“We want to use this information to create transparency and not just look at where laws are being violated,” Raab said Thursday, according to Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung. “There is no general suspicion of Muslim organizations.” Critics say the map will lead people to be suspicious of Muslim groups. While most of the institutions could easily be found with a quick Google search, Adis Serifovic, chairman of Muslim Youth Austria, told ORF that it also includes youth organizations with private addresses and presents an “enormous security risk.” The group plans to sue over the alleged breach of privacy. Many Muslims living in Austria are of Turkish descent and Turkey’s foreign ministry Friday declared the map “xenophobic, racist and anti-Islamic.” Though the project was initially described as a joint effort by the University of Vienna and the Austrian government’s Documentation Center for Political Islam, university officials have since distanced themselves and demanded that the school’s logo be removed.