Austrian Muslims react to Islam law change

Proposed overhaul of Austria's 1912 'Law on Islam' prompts concerns over the constitutional rights of the country's 500,000 Muslims.

Austrian Muslims react to Islam law change

World Bulletin/News Desk

Reactions to Austria’s recent proposed law change concerning its Islamic community are growing, with the amendment being accused of violating the constitutional rights of the country's 500,000 Muslims.

The Austrian government brought a draft bill to parliament on October 2 which would prohibit foreign funding for Islamic organizations and oblige the Islamic community to agree a standardized German translation of the Quran and other religious texts.

The amendment, which overhauls Austria's 1912 ‘Law on Islam’ over fears about rising extremism, also lays down rules on who can work as Islamic clerics in the country.

According to the bill, the employment of clerics from abroad would be prohibited. Imams would instead be trained at Austrian universities. Currently, some 300 imams work in the country, including 65 Turkish clerics.

The bill seeks to bar "influences from abroad" according to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz, from the center-right Austrian People's Party.

Kurz said the amendment was needed as time and conditions have changed, claiming the draft bill was to prevent extremism.

"The clear message should be that there is no contradiction between being a faithful Muslim and a proud Austrian," Kurz said.

Austria is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, about six percent of total population, making up the country’s largest non-Christian religious minority. Austria’s interior ministry has claimed that some 140 Austrian Muslims are believed to have joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has been operating in Syria and Iraq.

The critics of the bill say it promotes a “state-guided” Islam and is against the constitution, which guarantees equality and freedom of speech and of religion.

The prohibition of foreign funding has been the main target for critics as they say it violates the fairness of the constitution since the same legislation will not be applied to other religious communities.

An academic from Salzburg University's law department, Metin Akyurek, called for the rights enjoyed by Protestant, Catholic and Jewish groups to be extended to the Islamic community to guarantee "equality" in Austrian society.

Austria's aim of training its own imams was criticized by Akyurek as he says this goes against the right to teach religion based on the European Union's human rights laws.

He also questioned the timing of the law as Muslim communities come under suspicion over fears about extremism.

Dr. Farid Hafez, a scholar from Salzburg University, told the Anadolu Agency that the amendment is "institutionalized Islamophobia.” Hafez accused the Austrian government of trying to create its own "state-guided" Islam.

"There is a political motivation behind this bill," he claimed pointing to the rise of euroskeptic and right-wing political groups in Austria.

The president of the Austrian Islamic Community, Fuat Sanac, earlier announced they would appeal to Austria’s constitutional court to halt the amendment, which "risked humiliating" the country's Muslim population.

Sanac, on Saturday, said the Muslim community did not want to be treated as "second-class" citizens.

The appeals will be evaluated until November 7 by the constitutional council.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Ekim 2014, 17:56

Muhammed Öylek