October 8 2010
Following her presentation of Amsterdam’s annual globalization reading, entitled “Boss of your own burqa: feminism thanks to or in spite of Islam”, Radio Netherlands Worldwide carries a feature of Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy called for a global ban on the niqab and burqa and spoke out against “the right wing”, comprised of both xenophobic European right wing parties and radical Islamists who threated terrorism and violence.
23 September 2010
In this opinion piece, Farid Hafez compares the anti-Jewish strategies that were pursued at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th and the current Islamophobic strategies of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).
Aside from advocating the direct control of the sermons being preached in synagogues, right-wing parties argued for greater control of the architecture of religious building and called for the assimilation of the “unintegratable” Jews – all themes very similar to the headlines concerning Muslims today.
The last few months have also given rise to a new development: the leader of the FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, recently called the Social-Democratic Party of Austria (SPÖ) an “Islamist Party,” thereby echoing his predecessors who, one century ago, also warned of the “Jewishization” of the Social-Democratic Worker’s Party (SDAP).
Finally, the FPÖ has managed to revive old conspiracy fears, unveiling election placards that warn that the SPÖ is “for obligatory headscarves and thus is encouraging the oppression of women.” This all presented as operating alongside international Islamic terrorism, just as the “international Jewry” was presented as a threat one hundred years ago.
To the great surprise of pollsters and the regret of the government, the Swiss on Sunday said yes to a ban on the construction of minarets. According to final results, 57.5 percent of voters and a majority of cantons backed the initiative. Turnout was high at around 55 percent. The result comes as a major surprise and a slap in the face of the government. Opinion polls ahead of the vote had predicted the ban would be rejected by 53 percent of the electorate.
The proposal on banning minaret construction was championed by rightwing and ultra-conservative groups. The government and most political parties as well as churches and the business community came out strongly against it.
“A majority of the Swiss people and the cantons have adopted the popular initiative against the construction of minarets. The Federal Council respects this decision”, a government statement said. “Consequently the construction of new minarets in Switzerland is no longer permitted. The four existing minarets will remain. It will also be possible to continue to construct mosques.”
The statement said freedom of belief would not be affected. “Muslims in Switzerland are able to practice their religion alone or in community with others, and live according to their beliefs just as before.”
The construction of minarets is controversial not just in Switzerland – where a vote on the issue takes place in November – but also in neighboring Austria. Yet Austria is unique in western Europe in that Islam has been a recognized religion in the country for more than 100 years, since the time when the Habsburg empire was also home to Bosnians.
But there were few Muslims living in what is now Austria. The first mosque, in Vienna, dates back only to 1979 and owes its existence to Muslim immigration following the Second World War. Since then the Muslim population has almost trebled, and the demand for more mosques has grown – along with resistance from rightwing parties.
The Municipal Parliament has approved the plan to construct a third Mosque. Radical right wing parties called for protest. K.-P. Klingelschmitt reports.