Austrian minister calls for headscarf ban for public servants

Sebastian Kurz
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz attends Christian Social Union (CSU) party congress Nov. 4, 2016, in Munich, Germany. Photo by Michaela Rehle/REUTERS

VIENNA (Reuters) Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said on Friday (Jan. 6) he wanted to ban public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

Kurz, of the Christian Conservative People’s Party (OVP), is working on a draft law with Muna Duzdar, a junior minister from the OVP’s senior Social Democrat coalition partner who has an Arab family background and is Muslim.

If passed by parliament, the nationwide ban would be stricter than laws in France, where only the full body veil is illegal, or Germany, where the highest court in 2015 restricted lawmakers’ scope to ban teachers from wearing the headscarf.

“Because there (schools), it’s about the effect of role models and the influence on young people. Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state,” Kurz said, according to a spokesman.

Christian crosses, widespread in staunchly Catholic Austria, should be allowed in classrooms, Kurz said, referring to the country’s “historically grown culture.”

An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in March companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the Islamic headscarf but only as part of a general ban on religious and political symbols.

Kurz is revamping Austria’s integration laws and would also like to include a ban on full body veils and restrictions on the distribution of the Koran by Salafist Muslims, Kurz’s spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Austria’s most prominent Muslim group, IGGIO, noted that discrimination in the workplace on religious grounds was illegal in Austria and said: “After such a statement, trust is badly shaken.”

She said such a ban would send the wrong signal, not least because working women wearing the headscarf could help overcome deep “patriarchal prejudices.”

Duzdar also told Reuters a person cannot be discriminated against in the workplace on the grounds of their religion and said she wanted to wait for a final ECJ ruling on the issue before sending the law to parliament.

“I’m open to discussions about this but in reality one cannot pick individual religions. If you discuss religious dress and symbols, you have to speak about all religions. We work on a dialogue with all religious communities,” she said.

The coalition has not set a deadline for the draft to be finished.

In a hardening of her stance on migrants’ integration in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel last month called for a ban on full face veils “wherever legally possible.”

About the author



Click here to post a comment

  • Islamic headscarves can “influence children.” But Christian crosses are okay because it’s part of our “culture.” You’re not fooling anyone, Ostertrump.

  • The right wing elements in Austria never disappeared – they just went into hibernation awaiting a wake-up call which was provided by the recent mass immigration.

  • The question to ask whenever religious liberty issues come up in Europe is, “Would such a policy ever pass muster under the 1st Amendment?”

    In this case, not a chance.

    Europeans really don’t get civil liberties. What passes for “secularism” is nothing more than reworded sectarian bigotry. It always only applies to minority faiths and never Christians.

  • Headscarves can influence children…into understanding that Muslims exist in their country and have religious beliefs which are a protected civil liberty. Can’t have that. no sireee.

  • The point is moot until such time as the nations of Europe adopt the 1st. Amendment…which ain’t likely. It would seem evident however that schoolchildren will not be put at risk by their teacher’s headscarves, or their decorative crosses for that matter.

  • Not the point. The first amendment is a great gauge as to whether religious freedom is being honored or attacked. It puts European actions in perspective.

  • I’m not sure about that Edward…what about the risk to the children that they may be attracted to the cult?

  • Funny, that’s just what the True Christian Catholics and the True Christian protestants have been saying about each other for the past 500 years, as their armies slaughtered each other.

  • The classroom must be religion neutral as children will immediately want to have whatever the teacher is wearing, whether scarf or cross, etc. and annoy their parents by asking for this.

  • Not really. It’s why I read history books. There were over 200 years of overt Protestant catholic wars, and another 250 years that were not quite so overt. That’s why there is a Northern Ireland.

    Let me tell you, Mr. Horn. I am a gay man and a Jew. MY relatives and my people were slaughtered by the good Christians of the third Reich. For 1900 years, good Christians blamed Jews and gay people for every evil in the world, 99% of which were simply the products of bigotry, prejudice, and hate given an imprimatur as “god’s holy word”. Pogroms, holocausts, jails, executions, vilification, murders, suicides, judicial murder, torture, beatings, forced expulsions were the result.

    Good Christians, like good muslims, are still doing the same thing everywhere they can get away with it. In other words, they use god to justify what cannot be justified By any other means. The Christian alt right in is country are no better when it comes to Jews and gay people.

    And please, spare me the whine about how evil Muslims are for attacking gay people. It’s no different than what a good portion of Christian Africa, spurred on by American fundamentalists, still wants to do to gay people.

    The god addled Muslims fundamentalists only murder us physically. Good christians cannot get away with that any more in the West. So they have to settle for degrading us and murdering our spirits if they can’t throw us into jail.

  • I am a Gentile, a former Lutheran. When I learned that the Lutheran Bishops in America opined that they’d support Hamas against Israel, I informed him and my pastor that my shadow would never cross another Lutheran threshold again. That was 30+ years ago. Methodists, Presbyterians and others are just as bad. The Nazis in Germany are responsible for the holocaust, and the German Christians stuck their heads in the sand. The Mufti of Jerusalem arranged for over 5,000 Moslems to join the Nazis in exterminating Jews.

    My favorite retort when someone comes at me whining about the history of Christian violence. My question to them and to you is: How many people have Christians burned at the stake in the last 100 years? How many Chinese and Indochinese have been slaughtered in the name of Communism in the past 60-years? How many non-Moslems have been slaughtered by Moslems in the past five years – 30,000 or more.

    I don’t care of you are a gay or a straight Jew. In reading you here, I think you are pretty sensitive lest someone criticize you for being one or the other.
    For 1900 years SOME Christians blamed Jews for a lot of things. So did Democrats (the KKK was a Democratic created force used against blacks and Jews post Civil-War).
    The “God’s Holy Word” that I have read, studied, and honor includes the Old Testament – the Torah, as well as the New Testament.
    Yes, God drove the Jews from Israel, and subjected them to centuries of all of the indignities and torments that you speak about. That does NOT include me nor the Christians that I associate with.

    I am pro Israel, and I am a Zionist. I have Jewish friends all over the world. I pay tribute to a Jew (Baumgartner) who survived the holocaust in one of my blogs.

    What Moslems are doing to Jews, gays, Christians and non-Moslems today is an abomination that I work against every day of my life.
    The monster of the 21st Century is Islam, the Islamic agenda for the world. You should consider broadening your thinking to consider this fact, that Islam is NOT a religion; it is a fanatic inspired cult and ideology based on evil.

  • Excuse me? Do you deny there is a resurgence of the right-wing in Austria, Germany and France in respond to the recent immigration of Muslims? They realize that they have forever changed Western Europe. What Islam failed to do by the sword 800 years ago will be done peacefully and legally through a rapidly growing Muslim population crowding out a dwindling and aging European population. Like the Germanic people taking over the Roman Empire

  • he wanted to ban public servants, including school teachers, from wearing the Islamic headscarf.

    What if a teacher wears a headscarf for non-Islamic reasons?

  • A lot of sanity and a lot of crazy all at once.

    NAzism was a CHRISTIAN movement, supported by Christians. Google “Gott MIT Uns..” One of my few scholarly regrets is not keeping copies of the LUTHERAN CHURCH statements in Germany supporting the holocaust.

    For 1900 years A LOT of Christians blamed the Jews for all kinds of things. MY ancestors were forced to leave Eastern Europe if they wanted to stay alive. THe RCC did not apologize to the JEws until 1960.

    The only reasons that the church stopped burning people at the steak was because they were constrained by Civil law, not because they suddenly gained an influx of virtue.

    Most of the Muslims I have met have been decent people. Yes, there are evil Muslims fomenting death and terror. And yes, there are evil Christians doing exactly the same.

    Have a good day.

  • You are claiming that so many Moslems are such wonderful people. Get you passport showing that your faith is Jewish and then go and travel around the Arab/Moslem Middle East for a while, and then come back (if you’r still alive) and tell us about it.

  • Well…I’m not certain that a headscarf would prove compelling to a child’s curiosity, which in any case would best be answered by the child’s parent. If the parent’s themselves don’t hold to a particular spiritual belief the child is no worse off than otherwise. I want to be clear…I am an advocate for the Gospel of Christ uncompromised, but in a world where the balance of people are unbelievers, or believe in doctrines other than that of Christianity, we have to take them where they are and work from there. I would be willing to accept Muslim teachers’ headscarves in American schools if Christian teachers’ were allowed their cross pins and fishes. There is great spiritual risk in the world and we can’t avoid all of it, but cults and false religions today are no more prevalent than they were in Christ’s 1st Advent. But if children aren’t grounded in the Word from the beginning by their parents, and sometimes even when they are, they will always be at risk from the wiles of the enemy. But Christ is greater than all, and we can take comfort from that.

  • I don’t know about where you live, but here, it has become a heathen practice to wear a cross, so a cross has less influence, or meaning – if any. I think that the scarf should not be allowed.

  • “My faith is bad, but their faith is worse” is a defense of the excesses of Christianity?

    You miss my point entirely. I have no interest in anyone who uses their god as an excuse to harm or kill others. Christianity is hardly exempt from that charge. Again, Nazism was a Christian movement.

    Have a nice day,

  • You claim to “have no interest in anyone who uses their god as an excuse to harm or kill others:. Then you go after Christians and claim that the long dead Nazi movement was Christian.

    Never saw a picture of Hitler at mass.

    In all of this you ignore Islam or refuse to enter into a dialogue about Islam who, by the way, have slaughtered over 500,000 Christians in the Middle East over the past few years; and have done the same to the few remaining Jews or have driven Jews out of their lands. Why? Are you a closet Moslem?

  • You could try googling Hitler and Christianity for a wealth of quotes. But you would rather not.

  • I’m curious about the use of the term “heathen” in your post. Did you mean that heathens are wearing crosses in mockery, or that wearing one in a genuine spirit of testimony is viewed as a “heathenish” practice by the politically correct who are hostile to the faith?