Sunday, 1 March 2015

Austria has set an example for the rest of Europe

Cross-post from Sharia Watch

The Austrian Parliament has just approved some very controversial reforms. The Government there has said that they should serve as a model for Europe – and it is absolutely right.

The reforms are robust, and may well tackle the very real problems that country is experiencing in relation to its growing Muslim population. According to a University of Vienna study, the Muslim population of Austria has more than trebled since 1990. In Vienna, Islamic communities make up around 12.5% of residents. What the reforms aim to do is create an ‘Austrian Islam’, but more importantly, to reign in foreign influence over the nation’s mosques.

Furthermore, Austria's Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism has reportedly warned of "exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria." Salafism is a particularly poisonous interpretation of Islam which has been described as the "the fastest-growing Islamic movement in Europe”. Germany's Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has said that "almost without exception, all of those connected with Germany that have joined up with or supported violent jihadist movements, had prior contact with Salafists."

According to the recent reforms, imams in Austria’s mosques will now be required to speak German. On top of this, the employment of imams who “pose a threat to public safety, order, health and morals or the rights and freedoms of others” will be prevented. This is key. For example, any application of this law should censure mosques, and Islamic organisations, which pose a threat to the rights and freedoms of women – if the law were applied in the way that is needed.

Additionally, the employment of foreign imams will be banned under the proposals, as well as foreign funding for Islamic groups and mosques. It is well known that foreign influence, particularly from Saudi Arabia, is having a vast and highly detrimental effect on British mosques, as several documentaries have revealed. Saudi Arabia overwhelmingly practices an equally poisonous version of Islam known as Wahhabism, and its teachings are openly propagated in UK mosques, and even Islamic schools. If we were to take such bold action as Austria, we may be on our way to preventing the spread of extreme ideas in Britain – which can only be a welcome move. Paragraph 4.2 of the reform document states that Muslim organisations "must have a positive attitude toward society and state". Surely this represents a positive step forward?

Austria's Minister for Integration and Foreign Affairs, Sebastian Kurz, stated "What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values." Again, he is absolutely right. If only the British Government had such courage.

In response, the Turkish Government has, predictably, accused Austria of “Islamophobia”. Mehmet Görmez, head of the Turkish government's Religious Affairs Directorate, very interestingly said the following:

“Addressing all our friends and all governments not only in Austria but also in Europe, I would like to say the following: I have been bemusedly watching the efforts by each country to create their own versions of Islam, which would only bring Europe to a dead-end, while they should be paying attention to the issues particularly arising out of minority and integration policies and the weakening of culture of living together and take more significant precautions against advancing Islamophobia.

Countries come together from time to time on the grounds of security concerns and try to construct a version of Islam peculiar to their own countries, rather than increase the freedoms that would lead to unity and remove obstacles before the religious education and services, and make an effort to remove anti-Islamic sentiments and Islamophobia.”

This sinister statement is incredibly telling; instead of trying to integrate Islam in to European society, we must change that society instead. One can only speculate as to what Görmez means when he refers to an increase in “freedoms”, but given the recent direction of Turkey, one might suppose that his version of freedom is somewhat different from ours.

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