Austria approves headscarf ban in primary schools
Law against ‘religiously influenced clothing’ exempts male Sikh and Jewish headwear
By Philip Oltermann and agencies
Austrian MPs have approved a law aimed at banning the headscarf in primary schools, a measure proposed by the ruling rightwing government.
The text refers to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head”.
Representatives of both parts of the governing coalition, the centre-right People’s party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom party (FPÖ), have made it clear that despite its wide description, the law is targeted at the Islamic headscarf.
The FPÖ education spokesman, Wendelin Mölzer, said the law was “a signal against political Islam” while the ÖVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from subjugation.
The government said the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys and the Jewish kippa would not be affected. Medical bandages and protection from rain or snow are also not covered by the law approved on Wednesday.
Austria’s official Muslim community organisation, IGGÖ, has condemned the proposals as “shameless” and a “direct assault on the religious freedom of Austrian Muslims”. The organisation has signalled that it will seek to challenge the validity of the law at Austria’s constitutional court.
The government has already said it expects the law to face legal challenges, since similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority. In this instance almost all opposition MPs voted against the measure, with some accusing the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.
Mother Mary is always with a Hijab in artist’s imagination. How can any open minded Christian be against Hijab? pic.twitter.com/DZuOrGGPFR
— Zia H Shah (@ZiahShah1) December 16, 2015