Austria Lawmakers Approve Headscarf Ban in Schools

Headscarf ban in Europe’s several countries; The exact number of Muslims in Europe is unknown. According to estimates by the Pew Forum, the total number of Muslims in Europe (excluding Turkey) in 2010 was about 44 million (6% of the total population), including 19 million (3.8% of the population) in the European Union.

DESPARDES News Monitor – Austrian lawmakers have approved a law aimed at banning the headscarf in primary schools, a measure proposed by the ruling right-wing government.

So as to avoid charges that the law discriminates against Muslims, the text refers to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head”. However, representatives of both parts of the governing coalition, the center-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), have made it clear that the law is targeted at Islamic headscarf.

FPOe education spokesman Wendelin Moelzer said the law was “a signal against political Islam” while OeVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from “subjugation”.

The government says the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish kippa would not be affected.

Austria’s official Muslim community organization IGGOe has previously condemned the proposals as “shameless” and a “diversionary tactic”.

The IGGOe says that in any case only a “minuscule number” of girls would be affected.

Opposition MPs almost all voted against the measure, with some accusing the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.

The government admits that the law is likely to be challenged at Austria’s constitutional court, either on grounds of religious discrimination or because similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs.

The OeVP and FPOe formed a coalition in late 2017 after elections in which both parties took a tough anti-immigration stance and warned of the dangers of so-called “parallel societies”.

The veil, headeadscarf and burka issue is part of a wider debate about multiculturalism in Europe, as many politicians argue that there needs to be a greater effort to assimilate ethnic and religious minorities.

Last week, France’s Senate voted to ban mothers who wear Islamic headscarves from accompanying children on school trips, in the latest extension of the country’s war against the garments.

The Danish parliament approved a bill in May 2018 to punish anyone wearing a full-face veil with a fine, which would increase tenfold if an individual was caught again. It is due to come into effect in August 2018.

On 6 December 2016, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the wearing of full-faced veils should be prohibited in Germany “wherever it is legally possible”.

At least half of Germany’s 16 states went on to ban teachers from wearing headscarves and in the state of Hesse the ban included civil servants.

The southern state of Bavaria went on to prohibit full-face veils in schools, polling stations, universities and government offices in early 2017.

A law banning the full-face veil came into effect in Belgium in July 2011.

The law bans any clothing that obscures the identity of the wearer in places like parks and on the street.

In November 2016, Dutch MPs backed a ban on the Islamic full veil in public places such as schools and hospitals, and on public transport.

Several towns in Italy have local bans on face-covering veils. The north-western town of Novara is one of several local authorities to have already brought in rules to deter public use of the Islamic veil.

In the Lombardy region of Italy, a burka ban was agreed in December 2015 and came into effect in January 2016.

Russia’s Stavropol region has a ban on hijabs – the first of its kind imposed by a region in the Russian federation. The ruling was upheld by Russia’s Supreme Court in July 2013.