Moving to oppose the proposed ban on the Islamic headscarf in new public sector worker legislation, Austrian Muslim MP Muna Duzdar says the law could be extended to remove crosses in Austrian schools.
The Austrian coalition government, which consists of the Socialists (SPÖ) and the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), has agreed on a new deal that would prevent a snap federal election. Part of this agreement is legislation that would enforce secularism in the public sector by banning Islamic headscarves.
Ms. Duzdar of the SPÖ, who is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants and is the first female Muslim minister to serve as Austrian state secretary, said that while she isn’t claiming all crosses should be immediately removed, there must be questions as to what the government means by “neutrality” on religious symbols, Kronen Zeitung reports.
The ÖVP were quick to say the intention of the new agreement was not to ban crosses in schools at all. ÖVP Secretary Harald Mahrer said, “We are 100 per cent united in the federal government that Austria is a liberal constitutional state of the West and a Western-oriented democracy, and in the presence of the state authority the wearing of religious symbols can be against a certain principle of neutrality”.
He added, “It is about wearing the symbols”, rather than inanimate objects like crosses being hung on the walls of the schools.
“The principle of neutrality is not a headscarf ban”, Duzdar said Wednesday.
The “neutrality” agreement is the evolution of integration legislation proposed last summer by Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. The legislation initially would only ban the full-face Islamic veil and was delayed for months by the SPÖ. The new coalition agreement has ended the stalemate on the issue and earlier this week both parties agreed to the full face veil ban.
Recently, Mr. Kurz has backed a ban on all Islamic headscarves for public sector workers after integration expert Heinz Fassmann said the government should be “above all religions“.
The issue of Islamic headscarves, particularly the full face veil, has been widespread across Europe. While France has banned the full-face veil for years, many countries like Bulgaria and the Netherlands have only recently approved of banning the veil and in the case of the Netherlands only in public buildings.
The Islamic veil issue hasn’t been limited to European countries as this year the majority Muslim nation of Morocco banned the full face veil citing potential security risks.