06 March 2015, The Tablet

Austria's new law on Islam could be ‘a model for Germany’

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.

Meanwhile, the German bishops have called on the German Government and the international community to intervene against the terrorism of the Islamic State (IS). Negotiations with the IS were obviously “pointless”, Cardinal Reinhard Marx said. Developments were taking on “dramatic forms” and slogans such as “We will conquer Rome” were “truly alarming”, he said.

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