Muslims protest over anti-extremism vote
Austria’s parliament today passed a bill that prevents Muslim organisations from receiving foreign funding.
The vote, predictably, was met with protests, but surprisingly – according to this report – the country’s main Islamic group, the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria, approved the bill, which accords Muslims the right to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces.
Muslims in Austria will also have the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools, and will be allowed to skip work on Islamic holidays.
But Turkey’s leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the bill as “a 100-year regression”, arguing no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Turkey funds many imams in Austria.
The new legislation aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz calls an “Islam of European character” by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations and organisations, and offering Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations.
Austria’s old “law on Islam” dates back to 1912. The bill tabled to amend the 2012 law was first proposed two years ago, and predates the recent jihadist violence in France and Denmark. It was designed to “clearly combat” the growing influence of radical Islam, Kurz said.
Voting on the law came amid estimates that around 200 people from Austria – including women and minors – had gone to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist militias.
A poll published by the OGM institute yesterday found 58 percent of Austrians felt that radicalisation of the nation’s Muslims was underway.
The amended law also requires the almost 450 Muslim organisations in the country to demonstrate a “positive approach towards society and the state” in order to continue receiving official licensing.
Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German under the law – a measure designed to make their comments more accessible and transparent, while also facilitating the fuller integration of Islam into wider Austrian society.
We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims.
Earlier this month French Prime Minister Manuel Valls similarly raised the notion of banning foreign funding of Islamic organisations. Kurz said that officials in Germany and Switzerland have also expressed interest in the bill.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party criticised the bill as insufficientdoes not go far enough to combat a rising threat, and dismissed it as a “placebo”.
Muslims make up roughly 560,000 of Austria’s total population of 8.5 million. Mist Austrian Muslims are of Turkish and Bosnian origin, as well as ethnic Chechens and Iranians.
Hat tip: Marcus Robinson