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Islamophobia levels in Europe a concern despite acquittal, Muslim academic warns

In a column for MEE, Farid Hafez accuses Austrian intelligence of using 'conspiracy theories' to target Muslims
Hafez's apartment was one of around 60 homes of Muslim activists and academics raided in November 2020, in what Austria's interior minister called "Operation Luxor" (facebook)

Austrian intelligence services still view political Islam as a threat to the country, Austrian academic Farid Hafez warned in a new column on Tuesday, days after he was acquitted of "terrorism" charges for his work on Islamophobia.

Last Wednesday, the Higher Regional Court of Graz, Austria's second-largest city, dropped the charges against Hafez and ruled that no evidence was provided in the allegations.

In an article for Middle East Eye, Hafez said he felt relieved but remained concerned about the mounting levels of Islamophobia in Europe and in Austria.

"There is a lot of work to be done on behalf of the Austrian intelligence service," Hafez wrote, warning that they were "primed by alarmist experts spreading conspiracy theories to draw a picture of an immediate Muslim threat".

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Hafez, who was a professor at the University of Salzburg, was among around 60 families of Muslim activists and academics who were raided in November 2020 in what Austria's interior minister called "Operation Luxor".

How Austria made the study of Islamophobia a crime
Farid Hafez
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Hafez wrote that "special forces of the Austrian police stormed my house in Vienna at 5am, they handed me a search warrant that claimed that I could be a terrorist wanting to topple the Egyptian government and create a worldwide caliphate. I was astounded, to say the least."

He added that the raid "left my whole family, especially my young children, traumatised. I felt constantly insecure due to the tapping of my phone and other surveillance measures. My bank account and assets were frozen for two years."

The professor said that Austrian security services treated his academic work on Islamophobia with suspicion.

"The intelligence agency’s regular reports outlining why I was seen as a security threat delved deep into my academic work on Islamophobia, relating it to conspiracy theories," he wrote.

After threats to his academic career and false claims, including that his Catholic director at Georgetown University in Washington, DC was a "staunch Islamist", Hafez migrated to the United States.

Hafez, who is now a professor at Williams College in the US, is best known for issuing an annual report on European Islamophobia and as one of the founders of the Austrian Muslim Youth Association.

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