Liberal Muslims Present a New Approach to Integration

27 October 2010

The Liberal Muslim Initiative of Austria (ILMÖ) has proposed to demand imams and Islamic preachers in the future to sign a declaration in which they agree to respect the principles of European values, democracy, human rights, freedom of opinion, equality of the sexes, respect of other beliefs and the freedom to change religion.
The proposal came during a meeting with the minister of the interior, Maria Fekter. Fekter had invited a number of different Muslim groups to a “dialogue round” as part of a larger national action plan for integration. An international academic conference is to follow in November.
The ILMÖ also heavily criticized the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) and its leader, Anas Schakfeh, saying the IGGiÖ is “not able to promote the integration of all Muslims” and “is not capable of integrating its own Muslims.”
In response, Omar Al-Rawi, both Social-Democrat (SPÖ) politician and the integration commissioner for the IGGiÖ, stated that the ILMÖ was the “minority of a minority in a minority.” According to Al-Rawi, the IGGiÖ as a federation represents all the different groups that can be found among the 500 000 Muslims in Austria.

How Not to Have a Debate on Integration

A recent conference brought together the Ministry of the Interior, Maria Fekter, as well as a migration expert from the OECD, in order to speak about the prospects for upward social mobility and the integration of “second-generation immigrants” in Austria. However, the conference soon turned into a forum for unqualified statements and “provocative” questions, such as “how to punish parents who are unwilling to integrate?” The conference continued in a similar fashion, passing through “success stories” in the form of personal anecdotes, and including the ubiquitous question: “does Islam impede integration?”

The issue of the actual state of affairs for the “second generation” in the workplace, and the concrete ways by which this question might be addressed, were never brought up. Similarly to the general debate on integration in Austria, erroneous questions attempting to expose the ostensible ethnic and cultural obstacles to integration have prevented a constructive discussion on the solution of a social problem.