He said that a “theology of violence”, which has prevailed in Islam since the 15th century, and has now been accepted as the norm. “Violence in Vienna did not arise out of nothing,” according to Aslan.
Under the direction of the religious educator, an evolving “Islam map” was thus created in 2012, intended to depict Islamic associations and mosques in Austria and also to make their orientation visible. However, it was not until 2021 that an updated version of this map came under fire, when the Austrian Minister of Integration, Susanne Raab presented it as part of a recent presentation.
Raab said no one should ignore “dangerous developments in political Islam”. Politicians must ensure that such ideologies are not spread “under the guise of tolerance” she added.
As a result of the updated map, anti-Islam activists have put up warning signs in front of mosques. Aslan has met with a wave of criticism, not only from Islamic associations, but also from the Austrian Greens. He has shrugged off the concerns.
Aslan wanted to state “that there is undoubtedly an urgent need for a factual debate about Islam in Austria”. The map can make a meaningful contribution to this. He concluded: “I urge all sides to return to an objective, scientifically sound discussion.”
Aslan defended the proposed ban on foreign funding for Muslim organizations and the reorganization of imam training in Austria. In a large-scale study in 2017, Aslan came to the conclusion that, contrary to what is often reported in the German press, violent Islamist criminals do have knowledge of their religion.
“Regardless of their level of religious knowledge, a radicalized person sees an offer in theology that gives meaning and structure to their life. It is revealing that the majority of those questioned come from a devout Muslim family and knew the basics of Islam even before the radicalization… People who have a higher level of theological knowledge act as authorities and play a central role in spreading the ideology… The radical groups and individuals see them as the only true Muslims… The social environment is perceived as depraved, democracy rejected, the West declared the enemy of the Muslim world.”
When Mouhanad Khorchide, chairman of the scientific advisory board of the documentation center, defended the map on Austrian broadcaster Ö1, he received death threats from Salafists in Germany. At ATIB, to which more than 60 mosque institutions can be assigned in Austria, the question of independence from Turkish politics arises. And Milli-Görus is the most prominent representative of political Islam with close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Khorchide. According to the dossier, Milli-Görus is currently represented by 48 institutions in Austria, while 29 mosque associations can be assigned to the Gray Wolves.
Eager to avoid controversy, the University of Vienna has distanced itself from the project by prohibiting the use of its logo on the website. Aslan expressed his surprise at the approach of the University of Vienna to the APA and referred to the cooperation agreement with the university. According to the documentation center, the aim of the online map is to provide an overview of Muslim institutions and to identify those that are part of “political Islam”. The rector of the University of Vienna, Heinz Engl, distanced himself from the project.
It is not Aslan’s first conflict with the University of Vienna: A study on Islamic kindergartens in 2017 also caused a stir. In 2019 the religious educator was dismissed as head of the Institute for Islamic Theological Studies at the University of Vienna.