SHAFAQNA – On Wednesday Austria is poised to pass a new bill to regulate the governance of its Muslim population. This new attempt to legislate Islam comes amid a broad European debate on extremism and integration on the premise that Muslims automatically stand in opposition to western values, which claims Muslims have denounced as racist and prejudice.
Austria’s law change 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, told media.
The bill is expected to pass with a large majority in the Austrian parliament with both social democrats and conservatives in agreement.
And though some elements of the law aim to implement much needed reforms in favor of the Muslim community – 600,000 people – such as the right for Muslim clerics to visit hospital patients, soldiers and prisoners, or the organization of meal substitution in schools and other public institutions, not all provisions are positives.
For example, the bill stresses that national law stands above Muslim sharia law, a provision that is absent in Austrian laws governing other religions.The bill also stops the deployment and payment of imams by Turkey and other countries, as it bans foreign financing and sets up a Muslim theology seminar to train Muslim clergy in Vienna.
Foreign Affairs and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz says he seeks the development of an “Austrian-style Islam,” and he thinks that Austria-trained clergy would find it easier to connect with local Muslim youths, and fight radicalization.
“We need models, especially for young people, and that’s where the imams come in,” the 28-year-old conservative said.