Austrians raise voice against ban on Muslim headscarves

Law bans headscarves for girls under age of 10 at all primary schools, including private schools across country.
VIENNA: A large number of non-governmental organizations, journalists, politicians and activists in Austria are opposed to banning of the religious head covering in primary schools.

“The law not only contributes to the exacerbation of Islamophobia, but also serves to promote the idea that Muslims are a danger to society,” an independent member of Austria’s parliament, Martha Bissman told Anadolu Agency in an interview.

She said the agitation against Muslims is no more “a marginal phenomenon” and “has moved to the center of politics with the current government”.

Austria’s far-right government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the youngest leader in Europe, introduced a draft law banning headscarves late last year in the parliament, planning to implement it without support of the opposition.

The law bans headscarves for girls under the age of 10 at all primary schools, including private schools across the country.

Bissman stressed that the law violates the basic principles of the Austrian State Treaty of 1955 and the constitution.

“The constitution includes the exercise of religious worship and the use of religious clothes and symbols, as well as the freedom of religion.”

Bissman said almost all Muslim representatives during interviews said they are against the coercion of girls to wear the headscarves.

“Prohibiting headscarves as a political campaign is nothing more than a result of a politically established hysteria for a minority.”

‘Law targets Muslims’

Opinion leaders say that the law is only aimed at Muslim children and the ban is in contradiction with the principle of equality and freedom of religion and therefore unconstitutional as the Christian’s crucifix is currently at every school in the country and that Jewish children are allowed to wear kippa, a religious head cover.

An author and activist, Wilhelm Lagthaler said he is also against the ban on headscarf.

“The far-right government limits the fundamental rights by prohibiting headscarves,” he said.

Lagthaler underlined that the main goal of the ban was to villainize Muslims in society.

He added that the far-right government threatened to extend the scope of the headscarf ban on every occasion and that the law posed a great risk for further restrictions on the freedom of Muslims.

The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGIO) said in a statement that the ban on headscarf conflicts with religious freedom.

“We want this law to be examined constitutionally,” it said.

Austria is home to around 700,000 Muslims, including 300,000 of Turkish origin. Many of them are second or third-generation Austrian citizens from Turkish families who migrated to the country in the 1960s.

Amid widespread fears from the refugee crisis and international terrorism, Austria’s right-wing parties proposed several controversial measures including strict controls on mosques and Muslim associations and immediately closing them in the case of suspicious activity.

In October 2017, Austria imposed a face-covering ban which prevents people from concealing their face in all public places, including transport facilities.–AA

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