DPI report: Revolution export and the Al-Quds Day in Austria

This analysis of Twelver Shia Islamism in Austria focuses on the activities and influences of a centre in Vienna.

The latest publication by the Documentation Centre Political Islam deals with the transnational networks of Twelver Shia political Islam in Austria. The Islamic Republic of Iran's para-state organisations abroad play a key role here. One such institution is the Islamic Centre Imam Ali (IZIA) in Vienna, whose activities are the focus of the analysis. The centre, which has existed in its current form since 2001, comprises various associations, companies and informal groups. The IZIA pursues the goal of using cultural and religious "soft power" to exert influence in order to propagate the export of the Islamic Revolution. Since its foundation, it has been led by clerics who report to the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Apart from personnel appointments, the influences are particularly evident in the thematic orientation and teachings of the religious centre.

Conspiracy theories and the “Islamic world revolution”

The report shows that Iranian-style Islamist ideology is spread by local preachers via the IZIA and through various channels, particularly within the Shia community in Austria.Similar institutions also exist in other countries, such as the Islamic Centre Hamburg (IZH) in Germany.In addition to the export of revolution, one focus is on the fight against secularism, which is seen as a colonial conspiracy against Islam.The separation of politics and religion is firmly rejected in numerous declarations, as is the democratic-pluralistic constitutional state.

The IZIA communicates its content within the organisation through various events and via traditional and social media. Among other things, the concept of an "Islamic world revolution" is propagated, whereby a transformation of society is to take place via a five-step process and global rule is to be achieved. In 2017 and 2018, the IZIA published the youth magazine "Tahur-e Gavan" (Spiritual Purification of Youth), which dealt with religious topics from a political perspective. Among other things, the magazine circulated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and caricatures, spread the discriminatory image of the subordinate role of women and propagated jihad against Israel, which was described as a "little Satan". Alongside the USA - the "Great Satan" - the Jewish state is considered the main enemy of the theocratic government in Tehran.

Al-Quds marches and the call for the destruction of Israel

The activities of twelve Shia Islamist actors around the world are most clearly visible in the Al-Quds Day protests, which are supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran and allied organisations such as the Lebanese Hezbollah. The day of action was established in 1979 by Iranian revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini, takes place annually on the last Friday of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan and is accompanied by marches in various countries calling for the destruction of Israel. The IZIA has always played a central role in organising the rallies in Austria, as evidenced by the participation of leading members of the centre at the head of the demonstrations.

From 2004 to 2019, marches took place in Vienna during which anti-Semitic calls and slogans were repeatedly heard. In addition to calls for a boycott and the equation of National Socialism with Israel, there were also calls for the murder of Jews.The now banned symbols of Hezbollah - whose military arm is classified as a terrorist organisation by the EU - were also regularly spotted.To this day, official representations of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Austria draw attention to Al-Quds Day, as was the case in 2023 and also this year in 2024 with corresponding mailings containing excerpts from an official statement.

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