Sunday, February 22, 2015

Austrian Islam Bill Stirs Feelings of Alienation

HAARETZ: Officials say the bill fosters the development of an 'Austrian-style Islam'; but critics say the legislation is discriminatory.

DPA - Amid Europe-wide debates on extremism and integration, Austria is changing its law governing Islam. However, the changes risk deepening the rift between Muslims and the majority population.

"Muslims feel they are misunderstood and under suspicion," the Austrian Islamic Community, an umbrella organization, has said about the planned Islam law and the restrictions it contains.

On Wednesday, the bill is expected to pass in the Austrian parliament with the majority of social democrats and conservatives. Despite the current frictions, the Islamic community was a main driver behind the project to update the rudimentary law that had governed relations between the state and Islam since 1912.

The bill contains several provisions that will make life easier for the nearly 600,000 Muslims among Austria's 8.6 million inhabitants, the second-largest religious group behind Catholics.

For example, Muslim clerics gain the right to visit hospital patients, soldiers and prisoners. In addition, schools and other public institutions will have to offer food in line with Muslim rules.

On the other hand, the bill stresses that national law stands above Muslim sharia law, a provision that is absent in Austrian laws governing other religions. » | Albert Otti and Alkimos Sartoros | Sunday, February 22, 2015