Austrian Muslims condemn modified law targeting Muslim communities


Muslims in Austria have condemned controversial amendments to a law in the country that now prohibits the funding of Muslim mosques and organizations by foreign sources, Press TV reports.

In a press conference held outside the parliament in Vienna on Tuesday, a day before the vote on the amendments, Muslim groups voiced their concern that the amended law no longer supports the right to religious freedom but has basically turned into a security law.

They believe the new law will alienate Muslims and encourage Islamophobia. They say the law is discriminatory as it restricts them and not the people of other faiths.

“It suspects us as potential threats to Austrian society. It suspects us as potential terrorists,” Ines Mahmoud, from the Muslim Civil Society Network, said.

On Wednesday, Austria’s legislature approved the changes to the country’s law on Islam aimed at promoting an “Islam of European character” by preventing the influence of and funding by foreign Muslim nations and organizations. The new changes also obligate imams to learn to speak German.

The original law on Islam was introduced in 1912 and made Islam an official religion in Austria. It was widely seen as a model for Europe with regard to Muslim integration.

Muslims constitute the second largest religious group in Austria after Catholic Christians, numbering more than half a million among the eight and a half million population of the European country.

However, Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz (pictured above) rejected that the new laws are against radicalism or terrorism, adding that it has not been amended as a result of the recent attacks in the French capital of Paris or the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

“There’s no general suspicion against Muslims in Austria. We have more than 500,000 people with Muslim background who live in our society and who are a very important part of our society,” Kurz told Press TV.

On February 17, one person was killed and three police officers were wounded when a gunman attacked a café in Copenhagen. Hours later, the assailant attacked the main synagogue of Copenhagen, killing one person and injuring two policemen.

Moreover, a series of attacks across the Île-de-France region of France from January 7 to January 9 killed 17 people as well as the three ISIL-linked gunmen involved in the assaults on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo weekly and a supermarket.

Kurz said the new law is “a good chance to give Muslim community rights but also obligations.”

Several Muslim groups opposing the changes plan to challenge the new law at the constitutional court.