Austria launches probe into ‘antisemitic’ mosque

The Documentation Centre Political Islam has spent a year looking into the activities of the Islamic Association in Austria


An Islamic association that runs a mosque in Vienna’s Jewish neighbourhood is allegedly responsible for propagating antisemitism, anti-Israel hatred, and support for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

These are the conclusions of a new study by Austria’s Documentation Centre Political Islam. It has spent a year looking into the activities of the Islamic Association in Austria (IVÖ), which operates Vienna’s Hidaya Mosque, one of the city’s oldest and largest houses of Muslim prayer.

The mosque is located in the vicinity of several synagogue in the second district on the northern side of the Danube Canal.

The study has now sparked a government investigation into the IVÖ.

The centre’s report concluded that the IVÖ is close to the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation the centre has previously identified as an “important actor” in Austria when it comes to the spread of Islamism.

IVÖ president and Hidaya Mosque imam Ibrahim al-Demerdash used his Friday sermons and other lectures to “spread the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, exalt martyrdom and death in service of religion, and sympathise openly with the Palestinian terror organisation Hamas”, says the study.

In many sermons, Mr Demerdash “made it clear that he sees Hamas and the ‘resistance movement’ in the Gaza Strip as a paragon for Muslims around the world”. He described Hamas as embodying a certain “manliness”, a characteristic essential for true believers, especially vis-à-vis martyrdom and death.

Particularly during Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, the imam regularly railed against Arab leaders who cooperated with Israel as well as “international Zionists” and the “cursed Zionists who left their lands in which they lived”, whom he tried to differentiate from “Jews as members of a religion and confession”, the study reports.

In one 2014 sermon, he prayed: “God, make our brothers in Palestine victorious, make our brothers in Gaza victorious! Secure their footing, let them hit their targets, and strengthen their might! … Destroy the cursed Zionists everywhere!”

The Documentation Centre Political Islam also examined the mosque library, whose catalogue includes works by “representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood that propagate Islamist and antisemitic positions”.

Books in the library’s collection quote from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and argue that the “separation of religion and state is the work of the Jews”, “banks in their western form are a purely Jewish idea”, and that interest was a Jewish invention designed to secure Jewish control over the world economy.

Leading figures in the IVÖ are also active on social media, including Mr Demerdash’s brother Talat Mohamed, who shared posts on Facebook that supported Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and spread antisemitic clichés such as the notion of “Zionist-Jewish control of media, finance, and politics”.

In 2015, Vienna’s branch of the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) honoured Talaat Mohamed for his long-time membership of the party. The SPÖ did not respond to the JC’s request for comment.

On the back of the Documentation Centre Political Islam’s report, Austria’s department for religious affairs has launched an investigation into the IVÖ. Integration minister Susanne Raab has called on the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGÖ) — the representative body for Islam in Austria — to take its share of responsibility for the Hidaya Mosque, which is part of a religious community that falls under the IGGÖ’s umbrella.

A spokesperson for the IGGÖ told the JC that while they take the allegations raised in the report “very seriously”, they would not comment on the specifics.

The IGGÖ “continues to oppose the work of the Documentation Centre for so-called ‘political Islam’” and has not yet been contacted by the department for religious affairs concerning any possible investigation.

The Documentation Centre Political Islam was set up in 2020 by the current conservative-green Austrian coalition government with a mandate to “document and research” the phenomenon of Islamism in Austria.

It took as its model the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance, which, since 1963, has been a hub for research into right-wing extremism.

The Jewish Community of Vienna declined to comment.

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