Islam Law in Austria

Since the last few months the amendment of the Austrian Islam law is critically discussed by constitutional lawyers, academics as well as members of the Islamic community. However, according to the daily newspaper standard the minister of foreign affairs Sebastian Kurz and other party members of the ÖVP are willing to discuss key points of the Islam law.

Additionally, the Austrian government wants to involve the Islamic community, their leader Fuat Sanac, much stronger in their ambitious project.

A Muslim Candidate for the Christian Democrats

7 October 2010
“My dialect gives me away,” says Sara Rahman smiling, “I’m from Upper Austria.” Rahman, a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab, is 29th on the electoral list for the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), a Christian democratic political party. For Rahman there is no contradiction between being Muslim and being part of a Christian political party: the ÖVP is a value-oriented party, and she sees many similarities with her own way of thinking.
Nevertheless, she is against a ban on the burqa, a position supported by the leader of the ÖVP, Christine Marek. Rahman believes that each woman should have the right to choose for herself, though personally she does not understand why someone would choose to wear a burqa. She finds the current debate on integration to be superfluous, while she understands that right-wing voters have legitimate fears, and initiatives need to be taken to dispel those fears. Though Rahman has no chance of joining the local council due to her position on the list, she says she finds the idea exciting, were the opportunity to present itself.

Election Campaign with a Veil

3 October 2010
Both the Social Democratic Part of Austria (SPÖ) as well as the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), the two largest political parties of the country, have included conservative headscarf-wearing women on their electoral lists for the upcoming Viennese elections.
In both cases the women are so far down on the list that they are sure not become part of the new Viennese council; however, in the case of the SPÖ candidate Gülsüm Namaldi, her conservative religious views and support for Turkish-language education has attracted criticism. Meanwhile the leader of the Viennese ÖVP, Christine Marek, called for the “acceptance of the veil as a normal situation” in an interview with the migrant magazine “Biber,” in which she poses with ÖVP’s headscarf-wearing candidate, Sara Rahman.

Kurz: “Local Imams for Local Muslims”

14 September 2010
Following his earlier statements calling for exclusively German-speaking imams in Austria, the leader of the youth division of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), Sebastian Kurz, is now saying that only individuals with an Austrian background be allowed to preach in Austrian mosques.

Kurz criticized that too many imams are trained in Turkey, and are under the authority of the Turkish prime minister. The socialist politician and integration spokesperson for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ), Omar Al-Rawi, responded by calling Kurz “ill-informed,” and by pointing out there as long as there was no Islamic theological institution in Austria, those wishing to become imams would have to go abroad to pursue their studies.

New discussions on headscarf ban in Austria

The secretary of Austria’s social democrat party SPÖ, Laura Rudas, has stirred a new headscarf debate. While she heavily criticised the alleged “headscarf constraint” among Austrian Muslims, she later clarified that she does not support a headscarf ban, but wants to achieve a voluntary refusal to wear it in the first place by investing in education.

In an interview with Iraqi-born Omar Al-Rawi of the SPÖ, the politician claims that a new headscarf debate is misleading and unnecessary and emphases the importance equal opportunities for Muslim migrants. Sirvan Ekici, of Turkish background an member of the ÖVP, supports this view by saying that Islam-related debates only disguise the underlying social problems. Both of them admit that Austria has not showed the best performance in integration so far, but that it is on the right track and needs continuous emphasis on and investment into these issues.

Election campaign is hostile towards Islam, say Muslims

Austria’s Muslim Community have spoken out against the rhetoric of the current election campaigning, calling it “hostile towards the Islam”. Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamic Community of Austria, said: “Austria’s Muslims have to endure quite a lot at the moment. A lot of what is said in this campaign is hostile towards the Islam.” Religious Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan, the Muslim religious observance that takes place during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. Baghajati said: “It is worrying when hair-raisingly wrong interpretations of our religion or statements, are being used to create fear.” Baghajati refers to a claim calling the Islam the “fascism of the 21st century”. Baghajati also criticised the conservative ÖVP for being involved in passing regulations that prevent the construction of Mosques in the provinces of Carinthia and Vorarlberg. Baghajati called on all Muslims living in Austria to ballot at the general election of 28 September. Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer welcomed representatives of the Islamic Community at his offices yesterday (Wed) due to the current Ramadan celebrations. Last year, a similar event hosted by Federal President Heinz Fischer sparked controversy when media claimed that up to 28 terror suspects attended the welcome at the president’s Hofburg office.

Linz School Scandal Continues Unabated

LINZ – In the latest twist in the Linz primary school scandal Dietmar Keck, SP_ MP for Linz, called for a parliamentary inquiry and the resignation of Fritz Enzenhofer, Head of the State Education Department, for his role in the controversy started by three Muslim fathers, recent immigrants from Chechnya and Bosnia, who wrote a public letter demanding that the school head mistress and all female teachers at the school wear the hijab, be informally addressed, and that their children may not participate in performances (which would be “prostitution”) or take swimming lessons. {(continued in German)} Parlamentarische Anfragen, Drohung mit dem Staatsanwalt und R_cktrittsaufforderungen auf der einen, Wurschtigkeit auf der anderen Seite. Tief fliegen derzeit die Hackln zwischen Linzer SP und Landesschulratspr_sident Fritz Enzenhofer. Aber – zumindest vordergr_ndig – nicht etwa wegen der geplanten und dann geplatzten Schulschlie_ungen, die die SP nicht durchsetzen konnte. Es ist der “Kopftuchstreit” vom J_nner an der Linzer Otto-Gl_ckel-Schule, der Nachwehen zeigt. Der Pr_sident habe erstens Moslems verleumdet, zweitens falsch informiert und drittens die Aufkl_rung der Vorkommnisse behindern wollen, schie_t die SP in Richtung Enzenhofer. Sie ortet eine durchchoreografierte Anti-Ausl_nder-Kampagne der Linzer VP. Und belegen will sie die Anschuldigungen mit den Aussagen von zwei VP-Ministerinnen. Die Fakten: Moslemische V_ter sollen Kopftuchpflicht f_r Lehrerinnen gefordert haben (die O_N berichteten). Was die Moslems sp_ter von sich wiesen – aber geh_rig Staub aufwirbelte. Wof_r, so die SP, auch Aussagen Enzenhofers, einer der V_ter sei dem Verfassungsschutz bekannt und dem extremistischen Lager zuzuordnen, gesorgt h_tten. Das soll ihm im Rahmen einer “Amtshilfe” durch die Sicherheitsdirektion gemeldet worden sein, wie er Bildungsministerin Elisabeth Gehrer (VP) auf die parlamentarische Anfrage des Nationalratsabgeordneten Dietmar Keck (SP) mitteilt. Doch durch Innenministerin Liese Prokop (VP), deren Polizei die Auskunft _ber die Moslem-V_ter gegeben haben soll, h_tten sich die Widerspr_che offenbart, so die SP. Laut Ministerin sind keine Daten bekannt gegeben worden. “Irgendwer l_gt”, sagt Dietmar Keck und fordert Enzenhofers R_cktritt. Skandal_s und aufkl_rungsw_rdig findet auch der Linzer Schulstadtrat Johann Mayr (SP) die Vorg_nge und die Rolle Enzenhofers. “Die SP soll uns nicht immer vom Arbeiten abhalten”, sagt dieser dazu im Gespr_ch mit den O_N. Er habe schlie_lich die Situation an der Schule beruhigt, seine Taten w_rden f_r ihn sprechen. Mehr wolle er zu diesem Thema nicht sagen. “Das ist mir einfach zu bl_d.” Die Drohung mit dem Staatsanwalt? “Schreckt mich nicht.” Und die R_cktrittsforderung? “Ist mir wirklich wurscht.”