On November 9 final 12 months, at 5am, police in Vienna rammed into Farid Hafez’s two-storey condo and pointed their weapons on the political scientist and his household.
After monitoring him for greater than 20,000 hours, he was suspected of supporting “terrorism”, a cost he strongly denies.
“It was just unthinkable. I could never have conceived of anything like that happening to me here,” Hafez, who works on the University of Salzburg, informed Al Jazeera by way of Zoom. “I felt like this was a Hollywood movie with GIs surrounding me.”
The incident came about per week after an Austrian man, who had been jailed earlier than for attempting to affix ISIL (ISIS) however launched after attending a deradicalisation programme, killed 4 folks and injured greater than 20 others within the Austrian capital.
On the identical day, the raid on Hafez’s house came about. Austria’s inside minister referred to as it “Operation Luxor”, during which some 60 houses of Muslim activists and teachers had been searched.
Hafez informed Al Jazeera that his household remains to be shaken.
“I have been speaking to a psychoanalyst. In fact, we are all being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder,” he stated, “and we are doing it especially for the kids.”
They have “hardly been sleeping”, he added. “In the first month, every noise we heard, we wondered if they [police] would come barging in again?”
Aside from supporting terrorism, police have accused him of different crimes together with “hostility to the state” and “money laundering”.
To date, he has not been charged.
His telephone and laptop computer had been among the many objects seized, and stay in possession of the police.
Hafez’s checking account was additionally frozen, leaving him unable to pay attorneys or restore the injury brought about through the raid.
“There is a GoFund campaign ongoing to help me with those expenses,” he stated.
Thread: Since some buddies & colleagues have already began spreading the phrase and donating: On 9 November 2020, my house in Vienna was raided by particular forces. Here is what occurred in a brief video https://t.co/d9QNiwIiKq
— Farid Hafez (@ferithafez) March 1, 2021
This week, the Austria-born and raised lecturer launched a brief movie, After The Raid, offering particulars of his life, profession and the encounter.
In the slickly produced video, photos purport to point out home windows that had been damaged within the search, and a bullet that was left behind.
He describes the raid as “surreal” and says his daughter nonetheless has nightmares during which she sees Hafez being shot to dying by police.
Austrian authorities have three years to analyze and convey formal costs in opposition to him.
The search warrant for the raid included his communication with the pinnacle of a neighborhood political celebration and his help for a college challenge involving a well known Protestant professor and a Muslim lady.
Hafez stated there was nothing controversial about his assembly or his help for the challenge, telling Al Jazeera he would “do it again”.
Islam below scrutiny in Austria
Hafez is the founding father of the European Islamophobia Report, a yearly examine that analyses 32 European international locations. He has criticised the conservative Austrian authorities, and has beforehand stated Islamophobia is a dominant type of racism in Western democracies.
His case has raised considerations over Islamophobia, and led to a debate on social media after a whole lot shared his story on Twitter.
“The Austrian government is attempting to intimidate, punish, and bankrupt one of the most prominent and visible Austrian Muslims in the country – and one of the government’s most outspoken critics – despite having nothing to charge him on,” Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at Brookings, tweeted.
Recently, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has taken a tough line on what he calls “political Islam”, proposed to criminalise it – a transfer which might see a registry of imams created and mosques closed.
In 2017, Kurz performed a key function as then-foreign and integration minister in seeing by means of Austria’s ban on the Muslim veil, or niqab.
After turning into chancellor later that 12 months, his authorities launched a scarf ban in main faculties in 2019.
Austria’s Constitutional Court overturned the scarf regulation, saying it discriminated in opposition to Muslims and would hinder “Muslim girls’ access to education”.
In the aftermath of the Vienna assault, Kurz stated “Islamic extremism” not solely “caused death and destruction”, but it surely additionally “wants to divide our society, and we will not allow this to happen”.
John Esposito, a professor at Georgetown University, informed Al Jazeera that he noticed Austria as a tolerant society in the direction of all religions, however that notion has declined lately with the rise of the present authorities.
“Unfortunately what we are seeing is similar to the [Emmanuel] Macron government in France. Their approach to Islam and Muslims is one which seems to operate from a concern about extremism that winds up brushing ordinary and prominent members of the Muslim community [in Austria],” Esposito, the previous President of American Academy of Religion, famous.
Macron got here below intense criticism final 12 months for saying Islam was “in crisis” the world over, as he advocated for a controversial regulation curbing “Islamist separatism”.
Hafez is a senior researcher at Georgetown’s Bridge Initiative – a analysis challenge on Islamophobia of which Esposito is the founding director.
“Farid is a prominent international scholar. I have seen him in action,” Esposito stated, including that Georgetown had employed him primarily based on his “significant corpus” of labor.
“If one thing [the raid] like this could occur to him, a profitable and mainstream citizen, it raises questions … what is occurring right here?
“We will see this issue not only raised by the many academics professionally, but it could mushroom where more people will publicly speak out and inform their respective governments.”
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