Elections for the IGGiÖ: Female Candidates Wanted

The Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) will hold elections in the various federal states of the country from November to April 2011, and has expressed a desire to have a higher number of female candidates as well as a high turn-out by female Muslim voters in general. Current president Anas Schakfeh has stated that the new electoral system is designed to bring in a greater degree of plurality– this is reflected by the participation of the Austrian Socialist politician Omar Al-Rawi in the IGGiÖ, while the possibility of a female president has also been evoked.

In order to be participate in the elections one needs to be a member of the IGGiÖ, to be older than fourteen, to have paid the yearly fee of 40 Euros, as well to have lived more than one year in the corresponding electoral region. Direct elections are held only for the assemblies of each federal state, who in turn elect the Shura Council, which then elects the High Council, one of whose members becomes the president.

The Austrian Liberal Muslim Initiative (ILMÖ) have criticized this process, which they claim is not representative for the approximately 600 000 Muslims in Austria. Moreover, the ILMÖ distanced themselves from the misuse of Islam and Muslims for political purposes, and characterized the participation of politicians such as Al-Rawi as illegal, unconstitutional, and contrary to Islam.

Gold medal for the president of Austria’s islamic religious community

The president of the Austrian Islamic Religious Community (IGGiÖ), Anas Schakfeh, has been awarded the gold medal for public service to the federal state of Vienna. Thomas Oliva, chairman of the Vienna Immigration Commission, called Schakfeh a “role model,” while Michael Häupl, mayor of Vienna, thanked him for his help in the smooth cooperation between religious communities in Vienna. Schakfeh, originally from Syria and Austrian citizen since 1980, responded that living in Vienna was a privilege for him, and he was thankful to have achieved certain goals, such as establishment of a Muslim cemetery and confessional schools.