One year following the brutal raids of Operation Luxor that marked a peak of the anti-Muslim policies perpetrated by the Austrian government, it is of utmost importance to take time to look back and revisit what has happened.
I welcome this initiative of CAGE and ACT-P to present a critical review of Operation Luxor, which has itself been been declared unlawful – while the investigations against many of the affected Muslim people and institutions rendered suspects of ‘terrorism’ are still ongoing.
It is indeed telling that this initiative is coming not only from within Austria, but from outside, which reveals how dire the silencing of critique against anti-Muslim legislation and politics has become in Austria. Indeed, as an academic who has been monitoring and criticising these policies for the past decade, I have always been aware that the present and future of these policies do not forecast the brightest future for Muslims, nor for the whole population in Austria.
But I had never thought that Muslim civil society actors as well as an academic like me would have to fear special forces breaking doors down and intimidating not only elder people, but also their children, on literally no grounds.
Operation Luxor left the Muslim community in Austria in a state of fear and impuissance, amidst a pandemic and lockdown. Following the militant attack in Vienna a week earlier, there was little space left to challenge such an operation.
The suspects were denied access to the investigative files (which was later again judged to be illegal) and thus had little to defend themselves. The suspects were left with frozen bank accounts, but had the chance to see who really stood by their side, and who hid away in silence. And apart from the personal journeys of self-knowledge and knowledge about one’s community, it revealed the extent to which repressive means could be implemented by state authorities.
This should be a wake-up call, amidst larger corruption scandals that are currently unravelling within the Austrian government – where the Austrian justice system has proven to be the only check on those exercising power. It seems to me that it will still have to take some time, until larger audiences can understand that the raids that happened on November 9, 2020, are just another part of a larger puzzle in a changing political landscape, where politicians have seemingly manipulated the media and want to take hold of the justice system.
For the Austrian public, the first-year anniversary of the still-ongoing Operation Luxor could be a welcome opportunity to critically reflect upon the state of the rule of law, human rights and the role of the politics vis-à-vis Muslims in the country, especially by the current corruption-tossed political circles.
This is especially important given how much they have been influenced by media discourse that had initially reproduced state propaganda, before largely turning to critically covering this investigation after truths came to light.