Good afternoon, distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen! Austria is unique among Western European countries insofar as it has granted Muslims the status of a recognized religious community. This dates back to the times following Austria-Hungary's annexation of Bosnia and Hercegovina.
Austria has regulated the religious freedoms of the Muslim community with the so-called "Anerkennungsgesetz" ("Act of Recognition"). This law was expanded and elaborated in 1912 with the so-called Law on Islam. This law, in turn, was reactivated in 1979 when the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich) was founded and given the status of a religious organization and public corporation i
This Act of Recognition has led to the following privileges:
Unlimited exercise of religious freedom within in the limits of the current jurisdiction of the Federal Constitutional Court.
Religious instruction in schools for free as mandated by federal law.
The Republic is obliged to provide instructional material and to finance religious instructors.
The Republic has no influence on teaching personnel selection as well as content of religious curriculum, which was last updated in 1983 and includes the portrayal of the replacement of a non-Muslim with a Muslim society.
In 1989, a change to the federal law on Islam was passed, clarifying which religious schools in Islam were to be accepted and covered by the Law on Islam. Until then, only the Bosnian Hanefa school of jurisprudence had been accepted.
Recognition is not only limited to formal equal treatment of symbols and rituals; it is also a material right -, hence the public funding of religious institutions. A further significant pillar of recognition is dialogue between State authorities and faith organizations. ii There are currently 350 Muslim religious teachers in Austria, of which 114 are foreigners from Turkey and Bosnia. However, according to the law, foreign religious teachers are to be an exception, which can hardly be said in this case.
The Islamic Religious Community organizes teachers and is in charge of the content of the instruction, which should be held in German. The purpose of the instruction is to improve students knowledge of Islam and to encourage them to reflect upon and discuss issues related to religious identity and living as a Muslim in Austria. Since 1999, a private Islamic religious academy has been training religious teachers of Islam in Vienna. iii The Islamic Religious Community, according to its founding charter, claims to represent all Muslims in Austria, yet reality shows that executive offices of Shura Council are staffed by Sunni Muslims. The president of the Community, Anas Shakfeh, is not only on the payroll of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia, which clearly points to the influence of Wahhabism in Austria, but also educational inspector, who says of himself that he is not able to oversee all Islamic classes organized in Austria. This remark came after a number of parents complained about teachers spreading inflammatory ideas.
Although there exists official separation of religion and state in Austria, Muslim officials ignore this by being elected to public office. One example is Omar Al-Rawi who is an elected member of the Vienna city council, representing the Social Democrats. Another example of the intertwining of religion and politics is Sivan Ekici, also a member of the Vienna city council representing the Peoples Party, whose husband works for the Embassy of Turkey. Mr. Shakfeh, the president of the Religious Community, is also on the record for saying, We do not want to make Islam European, because Islam is universal, period. Based on this statement, any dialogue is worthless and integration will certainly fail. iv In addition, mention must be made of the Muslim Brotherhoods influence in Austria. By building their own mosques, they are taking all aspects of Muslim integration into their hands. Saudi Arabia has transferred millions of dollars to Vienna to aid the Islamization v . A____ M____, the head of the Brotherhood in Austria, manages the Saudi funding in addition to being treasurer at the religious academy. Many mosques affiliated with M____ and the Brotherhood organize yearly summer camps in order to indoctrinate Muslim youth. vi Islam is the largest minority religion in Austria with approximately 4 % of the population according to the 2001 census. Most Muslims came to Austria after 1960 as "guestworkers" and later in the form of family immigration from Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. There are also communities of Arab and Pakistani origin.
There are currently over 280 mosques in Vienna, one of which is conspicuous with a minaret; however, most mosques are simply prayer rooms in the back of grocery stores, leading to parallel societies. These shops are opened on Sundays despite laws prohibiting the opening of stores. Police refrain from entering the premises and closing the shops because of the resulting bureaucratic hassle with the Islamic Community.
Roughly 50 percent of Muslims in Austria are Austrian citizens. Mass attitude toward Muslims is often hostile. Muslims face prejudice in social life and the labor market. Austrians often say that those who live in Austria must incorporate the customs and values of the Austrian people. Examples of issues where this argument played a major role are the dispute over the height of a minaret and the conflict over the changing the opening hours of a public swimming pool in order to address the special needs of Muslim women. vii Similarly, an Austrian government study conducted in 2006 concluded that 45 % of Muslims are unwilling to integrate. This study caused an uproar, especially among the Muslim communities, who immediately claimed that they were being victimized by the study.
However, according to the co-author of the study, the point of the study was to identify a problem area.
Although there are no readily available statistics for Muslim unemployment in Austria, the unemployment rate is more than 1.5 times higher for foreign-born, of which a substantial proportion is Muslim. The Austrian public employment service admits that women wearing hijab are unlikely to be hired viii
When interviewed for Austrian television, a hijabed girl admitted to having been rejected on numerous occasions, which made her decide to open a tax consulting office. She would offer jobs to hijabed women only, thereby creating another entry to a parallel society. ix Austrias political left chooses to ignore the dangers posed by the Islamization of Europe, particularly in Austria. The Social Democrats as well as the Greens Party rely heavily on the Muslim vote since the latter are accommodated by receiving preferential treatment.
On the other hand, the political right, such as the ill-famed Freedom Party, uses cheap slogans to foment fears about Islam in the population. We at the Austrian Association of Academics strongly believe that this is not the right way to combat Islamization. Thus we are grateful to the Austrian Peoples Partys continuing support in our quest to inform and educate people about the dangers of mixing Islam and politics. Selected politicians are finally realizing the Austrian policy of Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace and has nothing to do with terrorism has failed.
With the encouragement of the Austrian Association of Academics, the Peoples Party has formulated its requirements for immigrants as follows:
1. We must first talk about responsiblities, then about rights.
2. Responsiblities include learning German, the willingness to work, and the integration into the Austrian way of life by sharing and accepting our system of values.
The Austrian Association of Academics was founded in 1953 by the Rainhard Kamitz, then Minister of Finance. The Karl Martell Network, with its slogan Giving the silent majority a loud voice, was founded in 2007 in order to coordinate organizations working against Islamization. The Network also functions as a competence center and engages in fundraising as well as documentation. In addition, research projects covering religious sociology with groundbreaking results are currently being carried out.
In conclusion, what do we at the Karl Martell Network expect of Muslims and the Islamic Religious Community in Austria?
1. Enforcing the use of German in Islamic religious education.
2. Laying open the book currently used during Islamic religious education? The book The Lawful and the Prohibited by Yusuf Qaradawi was used until 2005.
3. The law of 1912 had been issued for the special case of Bosnia-Herczegovina, of course not taking into consideration todays needs and without examining the teachings of Islamic doctrine. To this day it is not clear where Islamic law differs from Austrian law. It is therefore of vital importance to urgently request from the Islamic Religious Community to explain in public the teachings of the Koran. It is not acceptable that Muslim representatives evade questions about critical Koran verses pretending that in order to understand them one has to be in command of classical Arabic or escape into reproaches of racism and xenophobia. Even critical remarks based on thorough analysis are often dismissed as pejudice.
4. It is not clear to what extent the Islamic Religious Community represents all Muslims in Austria. There are some ethnic and religious groupings who doubt this claim of sole legitimate representation. Muslims even often argue that a uniform Islam does not exist and that therefore a sole legitimate representation is not possible
Only complete clarification of the above mentioned questions can render Islam credible and prove
whether Islamic principles contravene Austrian laws (separation of state and religion, equal treatment of both sexes, women and childrens rights, abandon of religious denomination, punishments according to Sharia law etc.);
whether Islam is just a religion or a formalistic, aggressive, patriarchal and totalitarian ideology excluding every form of dialogue;
whether the formula integration through participation means the return of religion into politics and Islamization of Austria and Europe and therefore building of mosques, wearing headscarves etc. are to be judged accordingly, in which case
the special Austrian way will lead to a unilateral, short time modus vivendi in favor of the Muslims and that
in the future the intercultural presumably violent clash will become unavoidable.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Brussels, October 18, 2007 i Rosenberger, Governing Religious Diversity in Austria A Framework for Europe?, paper presented at the Symposium Small States in a Global World, April 7, 2006, Harvard University.
ii Rosenberger, Governing Religious Diversity in Austria A Framework for Europe?, paper presented at the Symposium Small States in a Global World, April 7, 2006, Harvard University.
iii www.euro-islam.info, Country profiles Austria, December 2006
iv Die Zeit: Das ist keine Integrationspolitik, Interview with Bassam Tibi, April 2006.
v E-mail correspondence with an austrian journalist, September 21, 2007.
vi E-mail correspondence with an austrian journalist , September 21, 2007.
vii Rosenberger, Governing Religious Diversity in Austria A Framework for Europe?, paper presented at the Symposium Small States in a Global World, April 7, 2006, Harvard University
viii www.euro-islam.info, Country profiles Austria, December 2006