The Muslim community in Austria is calling for more dialogue surrounding the government’s recent proposal to ban headscarves, or hijabs, for young girls in schools.
The proposal, which is being dubbed a “child protection law,” will be drafted later this year and could affect girls up to the age of 10. Austria’s new coalition government has said this new measure would protect the nation’s culture from Islamic influences and the infiltration of parallel societies, according to the BBC.
“Our goal is to confront any development of parallel societies in Austria,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, of the Austrian People’s Party, to the local ORF Radio.
Kurz additionally noted concern that the headscarves worn by young girls in schools was becoming a problem, calling it a “growing phenomenon,” although he did not give further details.
rnThe Muslim community in Austria voiced concerns over the measure, calling the proposal “counterproductive.” They also remarked that “very few” girls under the age of 10 wear headscarves to school and have requested more dialogue on the issue.
A ban on wearing in public burqas or niqabs, which cover the face, was implemented last year, though hijabs are allowed.
Kurz formed last year a coalition government with the Freedom Party of Austria, following an October 2017 legislative election. The Austrian People's Party has championed issues such as stricter immigration regulations after Austria absorbed a number of refugees, who make up around 2 percent of the nation’s 8.7 million population.
Austria is not the only European country which has considered measures to ban religious headscarves. The Court of Justice of the European Union has allowed a qualified ban on headscarves in the workplace. The ban additionally forbade other religious garb, including crucifixes, skullcaps, and turbans, from being worn while at work, depending on internal company rules.
The EU ruling came under fire from critics concerned about religious freedom, including Adina Portaru, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom International in Brussels.
In a previous interview with CNA, Portaru called the measure “highly problematic,” since it “ultimately allows private businesses to implement rules which violate the fundamental right to freedom of religion.”
“Nobody should be forced to choose between their religion and their profession,” she continued.