“A Minaret in Every Provincial Capital”

(Immigration and Integration, Muslim Advocacy and Organizations)
22 August 2010
The outgoing president of the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ), Anas Schakfeh, has stated in a recent interview with the radio program Ö1 that he hopes that every Austrian provincial capital will eventually have a mosque, with a minaret. Considering the number of Muslims in Austria stands at half a million, there are simply not enough places of worship.
“Mosques should not be hidden, but hidden things are always problematic and suspicious,” said Schakfeh. “We want to be normal citizens of this country.” With regard to the minaret, Schakfeh stated that similar to Christian churches many elements can be negotiated, however “a church has a structure, a form of architecture. And a mosque has a form of architecture as well.” The height of the minaret can be discussed, and loudspeakers are not a necessity either. Just as there are many different Islamic styles for prayer houses, Schakfeh believes that “a middle-European style may develop.”
The IGGiÖ is also planning to open a local branch in every provincial capital. The timing is not arbitrary, as starting in April 2011 a new representation will be elected by Austrian Muslims.
Schakfeh also criticized the government’s recently proposed “German language prerequisite” for immigrants to Austria as “simply unfeasible.” Most migrants would first have to migrate to a large city in their own country to attend the classes before being able to immigrate to Austria, thus necessitating a double emigration.
Finally Schakfeh stated his opposition to a ban of the burqa. “We do not recommend this form of the veil,” he continued, however a ban would be counterproductive because it would lead to the social isolation of those women who wear it. According to Schakfeh, the most important thing is being able to guarantee that women are making the decision of their own volition.