LONDON - Operation Luxor was the largest police operation Austria had witnessed since 1945. Targeting alleged terrorists, more than 100 defendants were included in the preliminary investigation against leaders of Muslim civil society and critics of discriminatory policies implemented during the chancellorship of Sebastian Kurz (2017-2021), which were mostly rescinded by the courts, writes Farid Hafez in the Middle East Eye.
I became the image of this operation. As the founding editor of the academic journal Islamophobia Studies Yearbook and the founding co-editor of the European Islamophobia Report, I have also been a vocal opponent of these policies, criticising them as authoritarian moves that undermine legal equality, religious freedom, freedom of association and, more generally, human rights.
When, on 9 November 2020, 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. The implications were dramatic and wide-ranging. 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 suspicions listed in the warrant were astonishing and one aspect, in particular, was most interesting: my academic work on Islamophobia was cited as a reason for the terrorism allegations.
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 and claiming that my Catholic director at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, was a staunch Islamist.