Politics: Austrian Law Sparks Debate About Islam

Austria’s parliament has passed a bill that reforms a more than 100-year-old law on Islam.  The bill includes new rights like the protections of religious holidays. In addition, it requires Muslim religious leaders to know how to speak German, and it bans foreign funding for mosques and Islamic organizations. Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German in order to induce a “positive approach towards society and the state” and in order for the 450 Muslim organizations in Austria to receive official licensing. Austrian officials state that the law aims to promote an “Islam of European character” and to fight Islamic extremism from foreign groups.  Mehmet Gormez, a leading Muslim cleric in Turkey, has called this bill “a 100-year regression,” since Turkey funds many imams in Austria. Austrian Muslim groups are enraged by this “discrimination” since other religions are not subject to the ban.  These groups plan to fight this bill in court.

Contributor: Chelsea Edirisuriya

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