More than a hundreds years ago, Islam became an official religion in Austria. The BBC says that the 1912 law
… has been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.
Now the Austrian parliament has issued an update, and it appears to be a mixed bag.
A key aspect of the new law is that mosques and imams may no longer accept foreign donations. That’s a problem if you take equality seriously, because no such restrictions have been placed on clergy of the Jewish and Christian faith.
Muslim groups … say the [legislation] reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court.
[Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz] told the BBC the reforms were a “milestone” for Austria and aimed to stop certain Muslim countries using financial means to exert “political influence.” “What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values,” he said.
Curiously, the BBC leaves out a handful of other salient provisions within the new law, but al-Jazeera fills in those blanks:
[The law] also requires the nearly 450 Muslim organisations in the country to demonstrate a “positive approach towards society and the state” in order to continue receiving official licensing.
Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German under the law. “We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims,” Kurz explained.
Austrian Muslims do get something in return:
The legislation also accords Muslims the right to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces.
Muslims in Austria will also have the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools, and will be allowed to not come to work on Islamic holidays.
Elsewhere, Muslim leaders have been grousing and grumbling about the Austrian changes.
The legislation has drawn wide reaction from Muslims across the world, with Turkey’s head of religious affairs, Mehmet Gormez, adding his condemnation on Tuesday. “Austria will go back 100 years in freedom with its Islam bill,” Mr. Gormez said.
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