Thursday, February 26, 2015

Austrian Parliament Passes Controversial Amendments To Law On Islam

Austria's Parliament yesterday adopted controversial amendments to the country's 1912 Law on Islam.  As reported by AFP, the new law bans foreign financing of mosques and requires imams to be able to speak German. Its goal is to create an Islam with European character. However the law as adopted did not include a previously proposed requirement for the development of an official German version of the Qur'an. (See prior posting.) The law gives Muslims the right to consult Islamic chaplains on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and the armed forces. It also assures Muslims the right to Halal meals in those institutions and in schools, and permits Muslims to take off of work for Muslim holidays. The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria approved the bill, but other Islamic organizations criticized it as discriminatory. On the other hand, Austria's far-right Freedom Party denounced the law as insufficient.

In an interview with NPR, the Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs further clarified the law's restrictions on foreign funding of mosques:
We have nothing against one time donations. And these are still allowed. But what we want to reduce is the control. If we have this kind of support, our communities do not have the opportunity to develop freely.
He also said:
[O]ur goal is to have our own Austrian imams. It is necessary for us to show young people that it's possible to be a believing Muslim and a proud Austrian at the same time.