by Sakeena Suliman, Cii News
Austria intends to establish an Austrian Islam. Echoing the 2013 sentiments of warmonger Tony Blair to create an Islam that Europe and the West will be pleased with, Austria has amended its 102 year old law on Islam.
Institutionalised in 1912 to safeguard the rights of Muslims and independently recognised by the government, fear of “extremisim” has led to the state’s extremist draft.
The amendments include banning Muslim organisations from receiving finances from abroad, the Quraan is to get a unified German-language translation and 70 of the 300 Imams in Austria will be outlawed for being employed by foreign countries.
Islam has so far existed in Austria on equal terms with other religions like Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism and Buddhism. There has been strong criticism for the state’s singling out Islam, practiced by almost six percent of the 8.6 million Austrians.
Cii Radio spoke with Doctor Farid Hafez, born in Austria but working and living in Vienna. Hafez earned an MA and PhD at the Department of Political Science, University of Vienna and an MSc in civic education at the University of Krems and Klagenfurt. He currently lectures at different universities and colleges in Austria. Part of his research includes the role of Islamophobia in Austrian party politics and Islamic political theory.
Hafez says until recently the legal recognition allowed Austrian Muslims much more independence than Muslims living elsewhere in Western Europe. “The masses of the Muslim people were quite astonished about what is going on here. Also because the Islamic Council [of Austria] did not really inform the Muslim people what was happening behind the scenes.”
The draft for a new Islam law has been an interest of the Islamic Council since 2003 but did not materialise because of the tense political atmosphere that worsened due to the far right’s use of Islamophobic slogans during their elections campaigns.
“… Generally speaking in the society Islamphobic attitudes have become more widespread. Therefore this draft for a new Islam law could not be implemented because there was no political party that said it was going to push something more liberal for the Muslim people. Now due to the discourse of the so called Islamic state in Iraq and Syria there was a possibility for the government to say they are going to bring this new draft for Muslims, there are going to say it’s good for them but on the other hand they are going to get tougher with the Muslims and show them the borders of action,” explained Hafez.
The draft, presented by a few leading government parties, among them the Social Democrats and the Conservative Party, is actually the implementation of institutionalised Islamophobia.
“What is going on here these days is that you have many, many, many discriminations… Twenty five percent of Imams in Austria are paid by the Turkish Government through an organisation which is connected to the ministry of religious affairs in Turkey, they want to restrict the Turkish influence. It also has to do with the general suspicion against the Turkish government, Erdogan, and on the other side they want to have an Austrian Islam,” said Hazfez.
“Muslims also want to have an Austrian Islam but it’s not an Islam dictated by the Austrian government but it’s an Austrian Islam that’s coming from bottom up. That’s where the difference lies, and it’s a crucial difference.”
The draft is undoubtedly driven by a general suspicion against Muslim people. While the draft has not yet gone so far as to control topics delivered at Friday sermons, Hafez said “the debate for that is already alive” with government declaring that Imams be trained at the University of Vienna.
“The Islamic council has no right to say who it wants or not so it’s possible that a non-Muslim could train the imams. In addition to that the training of Imams is something that, you can have theology in a university but the training of Imams is very much connected to the history and the institution of Islamic life. We see here in the draft it looks like the state wants to create an Imam it wants, together with the Islamic Council but it will have the main say in it and that’s a dangerous development it looks like the state wants to create its own Austrian Islam according to its own vision and that’s against the Austrian constitution because the Austrian constitution.”