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Austrian MPs Approve Controversial Changes to Islam Law

26 February 2015 22:30

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The Austrian parliament has voted in favor of changes to its century-old law on Islam. The original law, known as Islamgesetz, introduced in 1912, made Islam an official religion in Austria giving Muslims rights on a par with Christians and Jews. It was widely seen as a model for Europe with regards to Muslim integration.

The changes under discussion for the past three years include a ban on foreign funding for mosques and imams or local Muslim leaders.The Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration told us the new law is not against radicalism or terrorism and has not been created because of the attacks in Paris or Copenhagen.

The law obliges various Islamic associations to gather under a single umbrella group. Proponents say the aim is to help integrate Muslims.

Critics argue the changes that have now been approved will do just the opposite by alienating Muslims and encouraging Islamophobia.Austrian Muslims held a press conference and gathered outside parliament a day before the vote, saying the new law no longer regulates the right to religious freedom but is basically a security law.

Muslims form the second largest religious group in Austria after Catholic Christians, numbering more than half a million among the eight and a half million population.Several groups that represent them plan to challenge the new Islam law at the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

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