Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab Tuesday defended the controversial "Islam map," which details 620 mosques and Islamic associations including names and locations, 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 told the German Welt newspaper.
Raab launched an internet website called the "National Map of Islam" last week with the names and locations of more than 620 mosques, associations and officials.
Many Muslims feel stigmatized and their security threatened by the publishing of addresses and other details amid growing Islamophobia in Austria, especially in the wake of a deadly attack in Vienna last November.
The Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGOE), which represents the interests of roughly 800,000 Muslims in Austria, warned against stigmatizing Muslims living in the country "as a potential danger to society and the democratic legal order in the country."
This campaign is fueling racism and "exposes Muslim citizens to a massive security risk," IGGOE added.
The Muslim Youth of Austria (MJOE) announced over the weekend that they would file a lawsuit against the map.
Reacting to Raab's statements, the Vienna-based newspaper Der Standard warned in an op-ed piece that this map would "not only fuel Islamophobic attitudes” but could "even facilitate Islamophobic acts of violence.”
Meanwhile, the Council of Europe Monday called upon Austria to withdraw the map. Publication of the map is hostile to Muslims and potentially counterproductive, Europe's leading human rights organization said in a statement. It added the map served "existing resentments” and many Muslims see it as "extremely discriminatory.”
The statement reiterated Muslims "feel stigmatized and threatened in their security by the publication of addresses and other details.”
The Austrian integration minister also rejected criticism that the map would put representatives of Islam at risk.
"If you now say that you are founding an Islamic association, but you don't want anyone to know, let alone what you are doing and who you are, then that shows exactly the problem: namely, that you prefer to preach in private back rooms,” Raab said.
The map is also in the interests of Muslims who do not want to have anything to do with extremist currents, Raab said. "You should also know which mosque you are going to and what structures and ideologies are behind it," she added.
Austrian Muslims are deeply concerned over ongoing attempts by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to instrumentalize anti-Islam sentiments for his far-right agenda.
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