In the wake of the terrorist attack in Austria on 2 November, European Eye on Radicalization hosted a webinar, “Political Islam and Radicalization in Austria”.
The event sought to examine the various aspects of this horrific event, particularly the ideological environment in which this terrorist was incubated, and the implications of this attack, for Austria, for Europe, and beyond.
The event featured two expert speakers:
Dr. Elham Manea, Associate Professor at the University of Zurich, who has long experience studying Islamist movements, their effects on women’s rights, and the interplay of religion and state, which are some of the complex issues addressed by her publications.
Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, the Director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. An expert on Islamism in Europe and North America, his research over the past twenty years has focuses on jihadist networks in the West, counter-radicalization policies, and the activities of Muslim Brotherhood-derived and -inspired organizations in the West.
Dr. Vidino has been working closely on the situation in Austria and his insights were crucial to understand why the attack was not really surprising.
During the webinar, Dr. Manea highlighted the ability of political Islam to implement strategies to pursue their agenda simultaneously on a local and on a transnational level, in Muslim-majority countries and in Europe.
Another crucial issued raised by Manea was the need to avoid the political Islam’s narrative about the stigmatization of Muslims.
Like Manea, Dr. Vidino—whose expertise in political Islam recently generated his latest book, The Closed Circle: Joining and Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood in the West—warned that the jihadi and the Islamist component of any radical landscape are always variably linked, at least ideologically, and that in the case of Austria, the link has always been quite clear.
Vidino provided an in-depth analysis of the ascent, presence, and activity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Austria. Later, his presentation focused on the investigation in Austria, the first of its kind in the West, that seeks to systematically map the Ikhwan-related network—individuals, charities, mosques, and diverse institutions—in the country, and does so approaching it as a matter of subversion, rather than legalisms related to terrorism.