05 March 2015, The Tablet

Jailed blogger’s wife opposes Saudi-funded centre in Vienna

Ensaf Badawi, the wife of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, has called on the Austrian Government to close the controversial Saudi-financed King Abdullah Centre for Interreligious Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna.

The Centre, which refused to comment on the savage, court-ordered Badawi floggings, had lost all credibility as a centre for interreligious dialogue and was discrediting Austria’s international image, she said in a video message.

The judge now dealing with Badawi’s case, Mrs Badawi said, was the same judge who had sentenced him to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticising Saudi clerics. This judge had already twice demanded that Badawi be accused of apostasy, which was punishable by death in Saudi Arabia, she recalled in a written statement she sent to the Austrian Press Agency.

Meanwhile, Austria’s new law on Islam, which was passed by the Austrian parliament on 25 February, has rekindled the debate on the integration of Muslims in neighbouring Germany where Muslim leaders would like to see a similar law.

The new law specifies that Austrian law has priority over Muslim religious edicts, and forbids Muslim organisations and imams to be funded from abroad. Imams will be required to speak German and preach in German in mosques in Austria.

According to the Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who is also Minister for Integration, the law aims to prevent the radicalisation of young people. “We would like to reduce political influence from abroad and give Islam a chance to develop freely within Austrian society in line with our common European values”, he underlined.

The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) would welcome a law on Islam based on the new Austrian one, ZMD chairman Aiman Mayek said on the German TV channel phoenix.de. It was legitimate to require religious communities to finance themselves and for imams to be trained in Germany, he said.

The President of the German Bundestag, Norbert Lammert (CDU), said the law was “an interesting attempt to clarify situations which will also need clarifying in Germany”. Imams must definitely speak German in mosques in Germany, he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims the Austrian law violates EU law and suppresses Islam in Austria. Turkey is directly involved as 65 imams in Austria have received their salaries directly from Turkey to date, which will now no longer be possible. 

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