New rules for Austria's Muslims
The Austrian parliament on Wednesday passed reforms to its Islam law, redefining the rights and obligations of Muslims living in the country. Among other things the law bans funding for Muslim communities from abroad. Vienna is attempting to establish a local brand of Islam, some commentators write approvingly. Others criticise the law for casting a shadow of suspicion over all Muslims.
Vienna casts suspicion on all Muslims
The law fans prejudices and looks more like a security measure, the left-liberal daily Der Standard criticises: "The government wants to enforce a sort of Islam with Austrian features. The question is whether it can achieve that with this law. Some passages lead one to believe that it's more about security than religion. It casts a shadow of suspicion over all Muslims. In these times when concrete threats are giving way to generalised, diffuse fears, prejudices are only being reinforced. Danger, extremism and perhaps also terror go hand in hand with Muslims in Austria - or so the law would have us believe. Such an assumption does not provide a good basis for a spirit of cohabitation that could dispel such fears. Both sides feel menaced, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The government in Vienna has failed to hit the right note."
Austria aiming for a local form of Islam
Austria is right to call on its Muslims to establish their own brand of Islam, the conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung claims: "For the guiding principle behind the law - 'Islam belongs to Austria' - to meet with broad acceptance the Islam practised in Austria will have to distance itself more from the Islam practised in Muslims' countries of origin. The paragraphs in the law according to which state law takes precedence over religious law and Muslims must profess their commitment to the state and society in which they live are non-negotiable. An Islam that is compatible with the reality of Muslims' life here in Austria is also needed. What Austria wants is what all Europe wants: for Muslims to create a local form of Islam, ultimately a European Islam. That would also mean that imams are no longer sent from Turkey in the same numbers they have been so far and that money to finance mosques is no longer accepted from countries like Saudi Arabia."
Not an effective response to radicalism
The ban on foreign financing for Muslim associations and mosques contravenes the equality of religions before the law and could prove counter-productive in the fight against Muslim radicalism, the liberal daily Público worries: "Some changes are being welcomed by the local communities, for example the recognition of religious holidays. ... But there is also a change that incited fierce protests: the ban on mosques and imams receiving financial support from abroad, something which Christian and Jewish communities are free to do. Austria is mistaken if it believes that this will reduce the terrorist threat. If the rights of moderate Muslims are curtailed and they are put under stronger surveillance the pressure of radicalism won't be reduced. In fact the opposite may occur."