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Austria Bans Muslim Headscarves in Primary Schools

Friday 17 May 2019
Austria Bans Muslim Headscarves in Primary Schools

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Alwaght- Austrian MPs have voted to pass a law banning headscarves or Hijab in primary schools amid opposition to the move viewed as oppressing the country’s Muslim minority.

The law refers to ''all head-covering clothes of ideological or religious influence'', but it doesn't apply to the Jewish kippa, or to the turban worn by Sikh men.

The law was tabled by the coalition government, made up of PM Sebastian Kurz' right-wing Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) and far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ).

The Education spokesman for FPÖ, Wendelin Moelzer, said that the law was ''a signal against political Islam'', while the ÖVP MP Rudolf Taschner declared that it would protect girls against ''enslavement".

The former education minister, Sonja Hammerschmid, who represents the largest opposition party – the Social Democrats – said the move was “only about the headlines,” while questioning the ban’s effectiveness. Another MP from the green left-wing Jetzt (Now) Party, Stephanie Cox, called it a “populist measure targeting religious minority.”

Irmgard Griss, an MP from the liberal Neos Party, warned that the potential drawbacks of the ban could be greater than the benefits as there is no evidence that wearing a headscarf somehow limits the girls’ learning capabilities. She also said that the ban makes the Muslim girls responsible for the policies of the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia that make women and girls wear headscarves.

The future of the newly-adopted law seems to be somewhat uncertain as the ruling coalition expects it to be challenged in the Constitutional Court as it failed to win support of the two thirds of MPs, which would have made it unchallengeable.

The legislation already drew the ire of Austria’s official Muslim community organization, IGGO, which called the law “shameless and destructive,” and argued that it “discriminates exclusively against Muslims.” IGGO already vowed to take the issue to the Constitutional Court.

The decision comes amid reports of a 74 percent increase in Islamophobic attacks in the central European country.

 

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