What is clear is that Austria's "Law of Islam" of 1912 represents protection for Islamic organizations that no other European country has to offer.

Many Egyptian communities in Austria, however, do not define themselves as Muslim. They are completely opposed to political Islam, and are enormously worried about the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The 1912 law might be delivering the most potent weapon of Islamic extremism at the expense of the majority of Austria's Muslims -- most of whom practice their religion as a part of life not as an instrument of power.

One reason for the possible relocation of the Muslim Brotherhood's European headquarters from London to Graz, Austria, mentioned by The Daily Mail on April 12, might well be the inquiry, started by the British government in March, into the activities of the Brotherhood.

Ibrahim Munir, Secretary General of the Muslim Brotherhood and often referred to as the head of the Brotherhood in Europe, had said to the Anadolu news agency that he could not "imagine or accept leaving Britain for any other country."

However, the satellite channel Al Arabiya reported, from a source linked to the Brotherhood, that in London a meeting had taken place in the presence of Mahmoud Hussein, the secretary general of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, during which those present had discussed not only the situation in Egypt and the appointment of 17 new leaders, but had also endorsed the decision to move their headquarters from London to Austria and three other European countries.

Even Khalid Sham'a, Egypt's ambassador to Austria, confirmed to Al Arabiya that many leaders and members of the Brotherhood had moved to Austria, and noted that the main Egyptian community in Austria is located in Graz.

It appears that the European Muslim Brotherhood, in keeping with its pragmatic strategy of adjusting to contingencies, might be thinking of decentralizating.[1]

The enticement, however, that might really make Austria attractive to the Muslim Brotherhood, is its legislation. In 1912, Emperor Franz Joseph, as a result of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as an attempt to integrate Bosnian soldiers in Imperial army, issued the so-called Islamgesetz [Law of Islam].

The law provides, among other matters, that:

"The external legal conditions of the adherents of Islam shall be regulated on the basis of an autonomous administration, due consideration being given to state supervision...."

"The doctrines of Islam, its institutions and customs shall enjoy the same protection... unless they are in contradiction to state law."

"A religious community having been established, the creation of charity foundations for religious purposes of Islam shall be permitted."

The law, still in force today, was later extended to the entire Muslim community, both Shi'a and Sunni Muslims; it is considered by many representatives of Islam a model to be imitated.

As with all laws, it lends itself to various interpretations and misunderstandings, but tends to protect so-called organized Islam -- Islamic associations, usually linked, if not directly at least ideologically, with the Muslim Brotherhood -- rather than Muslim citizens in general.

Many Egyptian communities in Austria, however, such as the General Union of Egyptians and the Egyptian Club, do not define themselves as Muslim communities. They are completely opposed to political Islam, and are enormously worried about the possible presence of the leaders of the Brotherhood.

Unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood is already present. Petra Ramsauer, author of the book Muslimbr├╝der. Ihre geheime Strategie. Ihr globales Netzwerk [The Muslim Brotherhood. Their Secret Strategies, Their Global Network] (Vienna, 2014) explains that in Austria there were about 1,300 members of the Brotherhood demonstrating against Egypt's Second Revolution that in 2013 ousted Egypt's former president, Mohamed Morsi.

An image from the cover of Petra Ramsauer's book Muslimbr├╝der. Ihre geheime Strategie. Ihr globales Netzwerk [The Muslim Brotherhood. Their Secret Strategies, Their Global Network] (Vienna, 2014)

The Muslim population, not only in Austria, but also in any other country, includes different ethnic groups, different linguistic groups, and people with different ways of embracing Islam -- from devout Muslims to secular Muslims. [2]

The term "community," therefore, should not be limited only to the religious segment -- as organized Islam would undoubtedly like it to be.

Further, more than ten years ago, Ayman Ali, a physician and former vice-president of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe [FIOE], took office in Graz when he worked for Islamic organizations involved in the relief effort during the war in the Balkans. Ali later came into the limelight in June 2012, when he was appointed a member of the Constituent Assembly and spokesman for then-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, and in August, personal adviser to Morsi. Ali is currently in jail in Egypt while his family continues to live in Graz.

What is clear is that Austria's Law of Islam of 1912 represents protection for Islamic organizations that no other European country has to offer. The opening of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue [KAICIID] in Vienna in November of 2012, under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain, was not a random act.

More revealing is what happened to Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, convicted of "hav[ing] denigrated the teachings of a legally recognized religion," Islam, in Austria in 2011. She was declared guilty of having delivered a lecture during which she allegedly insulted Islam by citing Islamic authors and sources.

Currently, her appeal has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights in the hope of reversing Austria's judgment.

Once again, in court, Austria's "Law of Islam" benefits both the jihad by court's promoters, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic charities that are usually meant to fund the so-called "armed resistance."

Even with the best intentions, the 1912 law, a hundred years later, might be delivering the most potent weapon of Islamic extremism at the expense of the majority of Austria's Muslims -- most of whom who practice their religion as a part of life, not as an instrument of power.


[1] The presence of Muslim citizens in Austria is growing fast. In 2011, the Pew Research Center published the study The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Projections for 2010-2030. The data for Austria are eloquent: in 1990, the citizens of Islamic faith were about 161,000, or 2.1 % of the population. In 2010, they were about 475,000, or 5.7% of the population. And the projection for 2030 reached 799,000 Muslims, or 8% of the population. These statistics were reconfirmed by recent data provided by the School Inspectorate in Vienna: Catholic students in primary schools number 23,807, while Muslim ones are 17,913. In secondary schools, Muslims number 10,734 to 8,632 Catholics and 4,259 Orthodox.

[2] A closer look into Austria's Muslim population helps explains the problem. Ethnically, according to the website Euro-Islam, the main group is Turkish (about 135,000), followed by Bosnians (about 97,000). Arabs, mainly of Egyptian origin, number about 11,000. There are also Afghans, Pakistanis, Chechens and Kurds. There are also about 6,500 Muslims of Iranian origin, mostly secular.

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