Feb 26 2015
The Austrian parliament has passed controversial reforms to the country’s century-old law on Islam. The bill, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamic radicalism, bans foreign funding for mosques and imams. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz: “We don’t want our Muslim community to be dependent on foreign funding.”
BBC (h/t Mark Christians) Austria’s Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, defended the reforms but Muslim leaders say they fail to treat them equally. The 1912 law made Islam an official religion in Austria.
Muslim groups say the ban on foreign funding of msoques is unfair as international support is still permitted for the Christian and Jewish faiths. They say the legalization reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court.
Mr Kurz told the BBC the reforms were a “milestone” for Austria and aimed to stop certain Muslim countries using financial means to exert “political influence”. “What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values,” he said.
Meanwhile the legislation has drawn wide reaction from Muslims across the world, with Turkey’s head of religious affairs, Mehmet Gormez, adding his condemnation on Tuesday. “Austria will go back 100 years in freedom with its Islam bill,” Mr Gormez said, according to Turkey’s state-funded Anadolu news agency. (One can only hope)
Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria today, around 6% of the population. Many of them have Turkish or Bosnian roots.