Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz said on Friday that he wants to ban Muslim headscarves for public servants. Kurz is Austria’s 30-year-old minister—the youngest cabinet member in the country’s history—who is viewed as a rising star in the center-right People’s Party. His policies and views are getting large support in the country, but he is also no stranger to controversial proposals.
The popular millennial minister was earlier instrumental in closing the Balkans route in the midst of the refugee crisis, which was the path of refugees to Northern Europe. This step, however, was later praised by German’s Angela Merkel, who said that his intervention “helped bring the refugee crisis under control.”
This time, Kurtz announced his plan to ban hijabs for public servants—a move that seems to be directed at preserving cultural heritage and identity of Austria. If passed by the parliament the law will be stricter than the existing “veil” laws in France and Germany.
“Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state,” Kurz said.
However, Christian crosses, he stated, should be allowed in classrooms referring to the country’s “historically grown culture.”
Austria, a country of 8 million people that accepted 90,000 refugee applicants last year, is more multicultural than people tend to think—almost one in five residents were born outside of the country. However, despite a variety of ethnic groups, Austria’s embrace of Christianity is stronger than in France.
Alvino-Mario Fantini , editor-in-chief of The European Conservative, tells Heat Street that a majority of Austrians are supportive of the Minister’s strategy and approach towards refugees and towards banning the Islamic headscarf for public servants. He cites preservation of cultural heritage as one of the main factors in why his policies resonate so much among Austrians.
“Today’s multicultural ideal seeks a society that has no roots or identity of its own (so as not to offend others) and which is ‘all things to all people’ at all times. This is impossible: individuals and society, no matter how diverse or uniform, in the end are rooted in a particular tradition, whether they admit it to themselves or not,” Mr. Fantini says.
He also points out that there is a vibe of frustration in the country, mainly with the policy-makers who have failed to distinguish between legitimate war refugees and those who are economic migrants.
It is still unclear how banning of the headscarves would improve security or encourage integration in Austria. And how this law is going to be passed without being deemed discriminatory?
According to the European Court of Justice private companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the Islamic headscarf, but only as part of a general ban on religious and political symbols.
The popular minister of integration whose ambition is to make Austria a model melting pot in Europe, is also planning to include a ban on full body veils and restrictions on the distribution of the Koran by Salafist Muslims, according to his spokesperson.