Austria drops false ‘terrorism’ charges against Muslim academic | Islamophobia News
Farid Hafez tells Al Jazeera that the charges against him were aimed at ‘silencing’ critics of Austria’s anti-Muslim measures.
“Terrorism” charges against Austrian academic Farid Hafez have been dropped after an Al Jazeera documentary revealed the case was based on false evidence and fabricated allegations.
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hafez said he was relieved to no longer live in “limbo” two years after officers entered his two-storey home and pointed their guns at him. , his wife and two children.
“I didn’t know if the judges would actually go ahead and bring charges, which I didn’t believe [they would] at any time,” he said. “But I also couldn’t believe that such an attack could happen.”
Hafez is known for an annual report on European Islamophobia and is one of the founders of the Austrian Muslim Youth Association.
Looking back, the political scientist said the allegations leveled against him were “insane” and came “out of the blue”.
Hafez’s apartment was among about 60 homes of Muslim activists and academics raided in November 2020 as part of what Austria’s interior minister called “Operation Luxor”.
The search warrant alleged that Hafez – who is of Egyptian origin – wanted to destroy Egypt and Israel and establish a worldwide Islamic caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital.
In addition to “supporting terrorism”, police charged him with crimes including “hostility to the state” and “money laundering”.
Hafez’s bank account was frozen, leaving him unable to pay lawyers or repair the damage done during the attack.
The academic, who has since moved to the United States to become a professor at Georgetown University, said that many among those targeted for asset freezing had lived their lives with the loss of financial security.
Among them were critics of the Egyptian government as well as academic figures who expressed criticism of Austrian policies that were seen as discriminatory towards the Muslim community, including the closure of mosques and the ban on the hijab. .
Hafez said his study of Islamophobia was “reframed” and cast as “a form of terrorism”.
So the allegations made were trivial, but he believes it was never his intention to make a strong case.
“The idea was basically to scare and silence any kind of Austrian discrimination against Muslims,” said Hafez.
Al Jazeera Austria’s film Operation Luxor, released in May 2022, examined the events of November 9, 2020, when police officers raided Muslim homes and groups across Austria in what was said to be is an important “anti-terrorist” operation.
In an opinion piece for Al Jazeera in June 2021, Hafez argued that these raids were a clear indication of the extent to which the Austrian government had identified “political Islam” as a threat to the country.
In the process, he said, the Austrian authorities targeted real and imaginary members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The anti-Muslim policies of the government, and especially the campaign against ‘political Islam’ and the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ in Austria are worrying because they can have a devastating effect on Muslim civil society and human rights groups that – currently challenging Islamophobia in Europe,” he said. write