Austria Bans Foreign Funding for Muslim Organizations

Austria's parliament on Wednesday passed a law banning foreign sources of financing to Muslim organizations and requiring imams to be able to speak German, AFP reported.

The law, first introduced in October, is an overhaul of a 1912 law governing the status of Austrian Muslims.

The new law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz calls an "Islam of European character" by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations, organizations and funding at a time when concerns are rising about the spread of extremist Islam.

The legislation also offers Austrian Muslims a mix of increased rights and obligations in practicing their faith in the central European country, noted the report.

The law has generated opposition from several quarters, including Austrian Muslim groups that call it "discrimination" that imposes restrictions on Islam that other religions aren't saddled with.

Turkey's leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, decried the bill as "a 100-year regression," arguing that no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Turkey funds many imams in Austria.

Austria's far-right Freedom Party, meantime, mocked the bill as a "placebo" at a time when estimates suggest around 200 people from Austria — including women and minors — have gone to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist militias like Islamic Front.

The two-year-old bill passed by parliament Wednesday predates the recent jihadist violence in France and Denmark, but is designed to "clearly combat" the growing influence of radical Islam, Kurz said.

The new law will be studied by Austria's neighbors, noted AFP.

Earlier this month French Prime Minister Manuel Valls raised the notion of banning foreign funding of Islamic organizations. Kurz said officials in Germany and Switzerland have also expressed interest in the legislation.

To combat the rising risk of radical indoctrination of foreign origin, the new legislation bans Islamic cultural organizations and imams in Austria from receiving funding from abroad.

It also requires the nearly 450 Muslim organizations in the country to demonstrate a "positive approach towards society and the state" in order to continue receiving official licensing.

Imams will be obliged to be able to speak German under the law — a bid to make their comments more accessible and transparent, while also facilitating the fuller integration of Islam into wider Austrian society, noted AFP.

"We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims," Kurz explained ahead of the vote.

The legislation also provides for Muslims to be able to consult Islamic clerics on the staffs of hospitals, retirement homes, prisons and in the armed forces.

Muslims in Austria will also have the right to halal meals in those institutions as well as in public schools, and will be allowed to skip work on Islamic holidays.

Muslims make up roughly 560,000 of Austria's total population of 8.5 million. Most Austrian Muslims are of Turkish and Bosnian origin, as well as ethnic Chechens and Iranians.

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/191855

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