In this op-ed piece, Erich Kocina takes issue with the collective fear of a “clash of civilizations” in Austria with respect to Muslims, most often referring to Turks.
First of all, he says that this fear is due to a number of real integration problems; however, this should not be surprising given that uneducated Eastern Anatolian farmers, let loose in a big city in which they have difficulty finding their place, and who consequently turn inwards to find comfort in their partly archaic traditions, do not offer the most favorable circumstances for successful integration. The Austrian way of doing nothing, and then wondering why the group would rather stay closed upon itself, merely encourages this situation.
Secondly, he states that Turks have become the recipient for all negatives image of Muslims in general – whether it be from the 9/11 attacks, shaky videos of Islamist extremists threatening the West, or dictatorial regimes justifying their power by means of the Qur’an. Turk equals Muslim. Muslim equals bad. Period.
Though it seems ridiculous to need to differentiate Turks in Austria from Al-Qaida, Kocina believes that the latest publication from the Austrian Integration Fund may yet bring back the idea that the country will soon be overrun by Muslims, and that all women will be forced to wear a headscarf. Yet, the numbers from this report demonstrate only that there are more Muslims in Austria; those from countries such as Turkey, Bosnia, Kosovo or elsewhere, have had children; they have arranged for their families to join them in Austria; and that many have become Austrian citizens.
The study estimates that 58 percent of Turkish youth is religious, and points out that this religiosity is more pronounced the less educated these youths are. Kocina argues that this is logical, as less education means fewer chances in finding a job, and consequently more need for a social foothold, which can often be found in religion.
The oft repeated stories that the land will soon be overrun with Turks, due to their tendency to have more children, are contradicted by statistics. Though at the moment the average birth rate for Muslims is slightly higher than the national average, as living standards rise, the willingness to bring more children into the world sinks.
Kocina concludes by saying that the rest of Austria already knows this process, leaving one last development that the Catholic majority has already long behind it: secularization. This idea has just received an unexpected institutional pillar: the recently-announced formation of a Central Committee of Ex-Muslims in Austria.