Austrian restrictions on Islam: Why it’s worse than you think.

Austria just passed a bill putting restrictions on Islam. The two most notable portions break down like this: Imams are required to speak German, which is intended to integrate them into the society, and the law bans foreign funding for mosques, which is intended to prevent influence from Iran and Turkey on Austrian Muslims. Of course, the overall aim is to combat radicalization of Muslim youth.

That said, Austria is one of the few places in Europe that doesn’t have much a problem with its Muslim population. Why, you ask? Well, it boils down to a longstanding relationship with Muslim communities. All throughout the last thousand years, the influence of the Ottoman Empire brought Islam to a great many peoples in the Balkans and and up near Austria. In 1912, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire passed a law that made Islam an official religion.

This was a bid to draw Muslims into the armies, because years of politics and war had stitched together a great many dissimilar peoples under one government. Without unity, the empire would never be able to fend off the Russians under the Czar or the Ottomans. Indeed, two years after the law was passed, World World One began. By the end of the war, the empire had fragmented. For the first time in a long time, Austria became a single country, yet it managed to maintain this 1912 law of inclusiveness.

And here we are in 2015, at a time when Austria enjoys a remarkable degree of religious tolerance and togetherness for a European nation. And here Austria tries to destroy what has taken so long to develop. Over a hundred years of progress can’t disappear all at once, however, so maybe they’ve got a chance to survive the backsliding.

Further reading/sources: An article about a different form of the law from November; background on the 1912 law (search the page for 1912 to jump to it); a BBC brief; a more detailed article from The Local in Austria.

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