Austria’s Muslim communities and civil right groups have slammed a proposal to impose a hijab ban after it was announced by the Austrian Chancellor. Sebastian Kurz announced legal preparations were underway to ban the hijab in primary schools on April 4.
He said the proposal was called “the child protection law”. Kurz of the centre-right People’s Party said to broadcaster ORF Radio: “Our goal is to confront any development of parallel societies in Austria.”
His Conservative Party won last year’s election by taking a hard line on immigration, a hot topic after Austria took in the equivalent of almost 2 percent of its 8.7 million population in asylum seekers during Europe’s migrant crisis. The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGO) described the proposal as “unacceptable”. It branded the proposed ban as merely aimed at creating an agenda in which children would be used as political tools and the headscarf would be portrayed as an Islamic political symbol.
Head of IGGO, Ibrahim Olgun, said, “If politics is not done through the kippah of Jews or Christian crosses, no politics can be done over the headscarf.” He also said the proposal was a violation of human rights, stressing that it was in contradiction with the parental freedom to decide on how to discipline one’s children. “We strongly condemn this announcement.” Dr Farid Hafez, a political scientist, said such problematic announcements originated from “an authoritarian mindset on the part of the state”.
The Initiative for Discrimination-Free Education said the hijab was not a hindrance to integration in education.
Stressing that the ban contradicted the constitution as well as the second article of the European Convention on Human Rights, which declares that states should act in accordance with their citizens’ views of the world and their religious beliefs.
Secretary-General of the Vienna Islamic Federation, Harun Erciyas, argued most children did not wear the hijab to school, and that the proposal served as an agenda to impose a wider national ban.“Banning in the name of equality and freedom is not acceptable,” he added.
In Austria, where Islam has been one of the officially recognised religions since 1912, there is a population of over 600,000 Muslims, corresponding to seven percent of the population, according to figures obtained from the Vienna Islamic Federation.