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Austria passes “Law on Islam” banning foreign money for Muslim groups

Head of the Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache delivers a speech in front of Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz during a session of the parliament in Vienna February 25, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader
Head of the Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache delivers a speech in front of Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz during a session of the parliament in Vienna February 25, 2015.  REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Courtesy Reuters

Head of the Freedom Party Heinz-Christian Strache delivers a speech in front of Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz during a session of the parliament in Vienna February 25, 2015. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (RNS) Austria’s Parliament passed a law Wednesday (Feb. 25) that seeks to regulate how Islam is administered, singling out its large Muslim minority for treatment not applied to any other religious group.

The “Law on Islam” bans foreign funding for Islamic organizations and requires any group claiming to represent Austrian Muslims to submit and use a standardized German translation of the Quran.

The law met with little opposition from the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic population, was backed by Austria’s Catholic bishops, and was grudgingly accepted by the main Muslim organization. But it upset Turkey’s state religious establishment.

“We want an Islam of the Austrian kind, and not one that is dominated by other countries,” said Sebastian Kurz, the 28-year-old conservative minister for foreign affairs and integration, who is Austria’s most popular politician.

Austria’s half a million Muslims make up about 6 percent of the population and are overwhelmingly the families of Turkish migrant workers. Many of their imams are sent and financed by Turkey’s state religious affairs directorate, the Diyanet.

Mehmet Gormez, head of the Diyanet, said before the law was passed that “with this draft legislation, religious freedoms in Austria will have fallen back a hundred years.”

Austria’s biggest Islamic organization, IGGiO, accepted the law, but its youth arm opposed it, as did the Turkish-financed Turkish-Islamic Union in Austria, which runs many mosques and has vowed to challenge the bill in the Constitutional Court.

While the government has said Islamist militancy is on the rise, and around 170 people have left Austria to join jihadists in Syria or Iraq, Austria has experienced no Islamist violence of note, and relations with the Muslim community have been relatively unproblematic. Unlike France, Austria has not banned Muslim women from wearing full-face veils in public.

Nevertheless, the opposition far-right Freedom Party, which opposed the bill as too mild, attracts about 25 percent support with an anti-immigrant stance that is also highly critical of Islam. Meanwhile, the ruling Socialist and conservative parties struggle to muster a majority together.

Austria’s neighbor Germany has also experienced an upsurge of anti-Islam sentiment in the form of the weekly PEGIDA protests in Dresden.

These have, however, been met with much larger anti-racism demonstrations and a robust response from Chancellor Angela Merkel, mindful of Nazi Germany’s persecution of Jews, who asserted that “Islam belongs to Germany.”

The Austrian government says the new law strengthens Muslims’ legal status, for example by guaranteeing Islamic pastoral care in hospitals and the army, and protecting Muslims’ rights to eat and produce food according to Islamic rules.

The bill updates a “Law on Islam” dating from 1912 that was intended to guarantee the rights of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Muslims in the Austro-Hungarian empire. Turkey’s Gormez, who had attended centenary commemorations for the 1912 law, said its replacement would disregard the “morals and laws of coexistence” that Austria had established a century ago.

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris and Ece Toksabay in Istanbul.)


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  • And this is the difference between religious tolerance and religious freedom.
    Tolerance being existence as a matter of sufferance and approval of others. Freedom being a right to be exercised independently and outside of the power of others to alter.

    Would a law like this ever pass muster in the US?

    No way.

    It would run afoul of both portions of the 1st Amendment religious freedoms. It would mean state established (and approved) religion and an attack on the free exercise of faith.

  • I hope Muslims come to America instead of Austria.
    We have an excellent system and Muslims become acclimated quickly in the USA seeking education and science.

    Unfortunately Europe does not have the culture, capacity or the ability to help Muslims integrate into western societies. It is bad for Europe and bad for European Muslims.

    Come to America. Just be prepared that your family will be Athiests after a few decades of freedom 🙂

  • What freedom do atheists give others? Like all godless movements, atheism is as totalitarian-driven as Islam is. North Korea or ISIS? Same results for freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

    But we “tolerate” the godless, patronize the secular ideologue and move on to live a better life lived without the need for mental health drugs to make it through life to a rotting valueless corpse in a worthless grave.

    Although in America, for now, it is safer to live around fenced in atheists than dedicated Islamists. One can refuse the dangers of a godless ideology (for now) but hardly one led by Islamist rule.

  • Austrians know what reality is. Islamism is far more like Nazism than it is a bunch of separation of church and state fanatics banning a bible from the hands of a kid going to public school.

    They want to know what is happening in the Islamist movement so they can defend themselves from the enemy inside the gate before it is once again too late.

  • You get these finicky controversies when you

    1. Do not reproduce (Austria having had below replacement fertility for 40 years).

    2. Rely on immigrant labor under a legal regime which promotes the formation of alienated subcultures.

    3. Do not incorporate within your immigration law a recognition that some populations are tragically incompatible

    4. Do not deport trouble-makers (a feature of Danish practice, see the Imam who manufactured the Mo’ Toons riots).

    5. Cover up immigrant crime, because an influential slice of your bourgeoisie finds immigrants a useful tool to neutralize the vernacular native population they despise. (See Denmark and Britain).

    It’s legitimate to put the screws to foreign governments setting up troublesome little knots of people on their payroll, but the rest of the legislation as described is abusive.

  • I think Muslim populations may be a nut you cannot crack, but European governments and influential professional groups do various things which make that situation worse than it would otherwise be. That includes excessive immigration generally, guest worker importation, feeble responses to immigrant crime, feeble responses to the effrontery in political stances taken by immigrant populations, elites promoting stigma re national symbols (e.g. wearing St. George’s Cross in England), and welfare policies which have immigrant populations ensconced in public housing and drawing long/term doles.

  • Because freedom of religion is not as important as hysterics and prejudices.

    Its funny you mention Nazis, given that the major proponents of such measures are actual goosestepping neo-nazis calling themselves the ironically titled “Freedom Party”.

    Even in the US, Nazis have a right to free speech and free exercise of religion. Even the most loathsome ideologies and beliefs have a right to be heard. That is what freedom means. Protecting what is unpopular and despised in light of majority views.

  • And yet Muslim populations in the US are very well integrated. Downtown Brooklyn, Deerborn Michigan and Northern NJ are hardly hotbeds of Islamicism or isolated ghettos. I take it you have zero experience in proximity to Muslim neighborhoods in the US.

    The problem is European governments don’t know how to handle immigration (none have a sane naturalization policy), and their national culture is too tightly identified with race and religion.

    Guest worker programs are ridiculous. The idea that people staying in a country for years, raising families here, with children born here, should have no chance at citizenship or their children. It breeds radicalism. You create multi-generational slums and breed the next generation of future terrorists.

  • The only thing you got right was

    “Rely on immigrant labor under a legal regime which promotes the formation of alienated subcultures.”

    When you don’t employ such things as citizenship by birth or naturalization for people living and working here legally you create alienated subcultures. Europeans don’t know and don’t want to know how to integrate immigrant populations. Immigration is seen more of an unwanted chore than something necessary to a developed nation.

  • “What freedom do atheists give others? ”

    The 1st Amendment religious freedoms. The only secularist constitution in the world. A system of government which acknowledges religious belief is an inalienable right regardless of the specific faith or belief.

  • The only thing you got right was

    You’re pretty consistent in one respect: the gap between what you know and what you fancy you know beggars belief.

  • “just smaller, less obtrusive and less welfare-dependent”

    Which would be by definition, well integrated.

    Not like overcrowded, economically depressed, obtrusive ethnic ghettos we see in Muslim neighborhoods in Europe. In fact they even made parts of the Detroit metro area habitable for humans.

    The problem is you and others are laboring under the delusion that “But their Muslims!” is a rational serious argument.

  • Joe,

    Muslims only make up 1% of American population yet they are 4% of the medical and scientific community.

    Muslims in America are an amazing success story.
    They continue to advance very quickly in American society unlike anywhere else – even better than in their countries of origin.

    America is not Europe – Muslims are welcomed and given jobs in America.

    We embrace Muslims in the workplace and accept their skills whatever they are. Muslims soften their religious views over time in America whereas they are radicalized in most of the other countries.

  • Art Deco,

    “When you don’t reproduce”

    You are all about boosting your master race.

    Nothing you mentioned shows an awareness of humanity or seeks policies to better incorporate immigrants into the society who arrive on your shores.

  • James,

    Whatever happened to Love thy Neighbor?
    Oh, right – it is BS.
    Because Christianity only exists to give you permission for whatever you want to do to protect your tribe:

    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    Europe failed to come up with a strategy to incorporate Muslims into society – as a result Muslims are building their own counter-culture at it will create chaos.

    Meanwhile, all of these religions add nothing but a needless layer of danger.

  • Ken,

    “What do Atheists offer?”

    Our entirely godless (atheistic) Constitution is the best defense of freedom.
    Go back to school.

    The USA is an Atheist country. We have no god.
    That grants to Muslims, Christians, etc the rights to have their OWN gods as long as they don’t try to go to war with each other!

    The US Constitution may be the one thing worth worshipping in all of the universe. Shame on those who are too ignorant to learn this.

  • Ken,

    Your reading assignment:

    “ANIMAL FARM” – George Orwell

    Get back to me when you are done with your education
    and we can discuss the right ways to treat immigrants.

  • When the Chinese take control of the Roman Catholic Church godless Communism gets blamed for persecution, but when similar behaviour is emulated by a so-called European Liberal Democracy, not a whimper?

  • Does anyone else notice that the country is talking about updates to a law which was first passed when the country when the country was ruled by a hereditary monarch?