Vienna: Austrian MPs approved Wednesday 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 centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), have made it clear that the law is targetted at the 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 however, said that the ‘patka’ head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish ‘kippa’ would not be affected.
Austria’s official Muslim community organisation ‘IGGOe’ has previously condemned the proposals as ‘shameless’ and a ‘diversionary tactic’. The IGGOe said that in any case, only a ‘miniscule number’ of girls would be affected.
Almost all opposition MPs voted against the measure, with some accusing the government of focussing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.
The government admitted 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’.