The Austrian government’s planned ban on full-face veils has naturally encountered resistance. But it’s not the only religious symbol that is coming under scrutiny, as the display of crucifixes in kindergartens and schools also faces fresh debate. EURACTIV Germany reports.
Representatives of the Muslim community have announced that there will be a demonstration in Vienna tomorrow (4 February). The protest will be against the planned ban on full-face veils and headscarf ban for employees in public services.
The tourism industry is also critical of the plans, as they are concerned of the effect it will have on wealthy visitors from Muslim countries.
The issue of crucifixes being displayed in schools and nurseries has also come under fire. Critics argue that if one religious symbol is going to be banned in public, then the same must apply to all religions, not just Islam.
But Austria’s Constitutional Court has already taken a clear position on the issue, insisting that “the cross, without doubt, has become a symbol of the West’s intellectual history”. Moreover, it is also included in an international treaty between the Republic of Austria and the Holy See.
Austria’s integration ministry is undeterred by the significant criticism that has been levelled at the proposal and has already taken the next steps. Last August, it presented its draft integration law, which then entered its assessment phase.
The new legislation stipulates that German values should be developed and that symbols of counterculture, like the full-face veil or the distributing of the Koran by Salafis, should be banned. It also insists that respecting the host culture and values system is a prerequisite for integration.
Anyone receiving protection and asylum will therefore have to sign an integration contract and the declaration contained within it, under which they commit to abiding by the legal and social values of the country.
Beneficiaries will also be expected to attend German lessons and courses that teach about values. In the draft law, penalties of between €500 and €2,500 are included in the case of non-compliance.