Wednesday, 4 July 2012
100 Years of Legal Rights for Muslims in Austria
Muslims in Austria are celebrating a 100 year law which is seen as a model for other nations. It has guaranteed the same rights for Muslims as other officially recognised religions in Austria, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism and Buddhism.
However in its history Austria has made the headlines with the 1683 Siege of Vienna, when the Muslim Ottoman army's advance on Christian-controlled Europe was halted. As well as more recently when the anti-Islamic rhetoric of some Austrian far-right politicians featured in the news.
The law (1912) states:
Article 1: The adherents of Islam shall be granted recognition as a religious community in the kingdoms and crown-lands represented in the Imperial Council in the meaning of the Constitutional Law of 21 December, 1867... The religious community of the adherents of Islam according to the Hanafite rite shall... enjoy the same legal protection as is granted to other legally recognised religious communities. The doctrines of Islam, its institutions and customs shall enjoy the same protection too, unless they are in contradiction to state law.
I think one of the key components here, is that they enjoy the full protection and full rights of the state unless they contradict state law. In my understanding of Shari'a jurisprudence, the law of the land must always be obeyed first.
The BBC quote a Vienna City councillor, Omar Al-Rawi. He says the law does much to integrate Muslims into Austria, giving them a sense of being accepted:
"Austria is a model in Europe in dealing with Islam, but the Austrian Muslims are also a European model," he said.
"The Muslims know that with rights there are also obligations and duties. And if you have a lot of rights and benefits, you also have something to lose," he said.
"Austrian Muslims go all over the world saying we are Austrians, we belong to this country that gave us respect and recognition and gave us a lot of benefits that even some Muslim countries don't enjoy. And that is why they are very proud saying that they are Austrians."
This seems to go against the calls in some countries to reduce the rights of other religions, and particularly Muslims. In Austria, Muslims can exercise their wide-ranging rights including religious education in state schools, administration of internal affairs and public worship.
Perhaps this gives a different model to encourage cohesion within our communities? Does it take a country to give more rights in order to help integration? If people are equal and their beliefs and practises equally valued, are they not more likely to feel part of the country where they live?
Original article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18675493