World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Islam and Integration in Europe: The example of Austria (473) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Vienna (Austria)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Mag. Thomas Schmidinger

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The panel will discuss the current situation of Muslims in Austria. The reality of Muslims in Austria is facing debates about an within Islam. Islam became a topic for racist and anti-racist mobilisations. But also within Muslims in Austria the questions who represents Islam and which kind of Islam should be established are topics of debate. This panel will show mainlines of these discussions. Austria estimately counts over 400.000 Muslims. These Muslims are all represented by the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) - official religious body of Muslims, who seek religious representation through the legal backup of the Austrian politics and state. The debate on the IGGiÖ lies especially within the political structures in and around the IGGiÖ. Abstracts of the papers of the panel:

Chair: Mag. Thomas Schmidinger, University of Vienna

Discussant: Dr. Dunja Larise, University of Vienna

Paper presenter: Sana Shah, University of Vienna, “On the representativeness of the Islamic religious community (IGGiÖ) in Austria”
Based on a for many European countries exceptional law in regard of the official recognition of Islam in Austria the IGGiÖ claims its unique status of full representation of all Muslims in Austria. This paper is going to analyze on the one hand the political and religious deficiency inherent within the system of the IGGiÖ as well as portray the current religio-political trends within the system apparent by the political activism of its members. On the whole this paper will contest the authority of the IGGiÖ in its unique status of the representation of all Muslims in Austria.

Paper presenter: Ezgi Ertan, University of Vienna, “Alevis in Austria”
We shall attempt to shed light on the background and history of Alevic culture and discuss their identity as migrant workers and the positioning of their social network in the wider islamic community of Austria. Furthermore, the central point of discussion shall be the Austrian Alevi Federations attempts for official recognition as a separate religious community similar to the IGGiÖ, while weighing the differences in opinion relating to their origins among the diverse Alevi groups.

Paper presenter:Soma Ahmad, University of Vienna, “Mobilization against Muslims in Austria”
During political debates about the issue migration in the last years, it was particularly one certain party in Austria that attracted the public attention due to its racist and discriminating attitude towards immigrants; this party was the so called Freiheitliche Partei Österreich (=Freedom Party Austria; FPÖ). During the election campaigns (the legislative elections in 2005, 2006 and 2008) the FPÖ mobilized its voters against the Muslim population by making use of different kinds of Muslim symbols in the public. All over Austria the FPÖ created paroles against different Islamic customs, such as the Muslim veil, which turned to a symbol of ‘danger’ and Muslim ‘backwardness’. This paper aims at analyzing the discourse on the mobilization of extreme right-wing parties such as the FPÖ and BZÖ against the Islamic religion as well as the Muslim population living in Austria. Furthermore it shall analyze the different reactions of the various concerned groups within this debate.

Paper presenter: Saya Ahmad, University of Vienna, “Leftist groups and its mobilization for Muslims in Austria”
The necessity of an analytical approach of the Islamic representation in Austria is urgent, due to an alarming development: On the one hand the rightist parties mobilize against the Muslim minority living in Austria. On the other hand the leftist political parties such as the Social democrats in Austria (SPÖ) or the Greens party have pursued a policy of looking away. The SPÖ and the Greens were criticised for having taken in a passive role in the integration policy over the last decades. Within the left-wing parties there has been a lack of discourse about a differentiated perspective on the Islam and the Muslim community in Austria. Just as the rightists, the left-leaning parties and organisations trivialize and would not make a difference between Islam as a political instrument and Islam as a religion. This paper deals with the broad skid of positions within the leftist movement. It tackles the question, in how far the different leftist political parties or groups handle the issue of Islam in Austria.

Paper presenter: Mona El Khalaf, University of Vienna, “Islamic Religious Education in Austria and the Current Debates in the Austrian Print Media”
Islamic religious education has been offered in Austrian schools since the year 1982/83 and is currently supervised by 9 school inspectors, who are members of the Islamic Denomination in Austria (IGGiÖ). In January 2009 the results of a survey were published. Islamic Religious Education teachers had been asked about their opinions concerning Islam and Democracy, Islam and the Declaration of Human Rights. Their answers caused a large-scale debate - nearly a quarter refuse Democracy and the Declaration of Human Rights as both of them are contradicting Islam. For the first time the Ministry of Education broke a taboo and interfered in affairs of a denomination, which never happened before that. The Ministry induced the suspension of a teacher who distributed flyers against jewish companies and designed at the same time in cooperation with the IGGiÖ a 5-Point-Plan: It includes checking on the teachers’ pedagogic education and approval about democratic values, designing and implementing a new curriculum and the examination of the educational material. The paper will tackle the development of the debates in Austrian print media from January 2009 until June 2010 as due to the actions and steps made by the Ministry further discussions and debates are expected.