Farid Hafez

Political Scientist, Visiting Professor of International Studies at Williams College, Senior Fellow at Bridge Initiative/Georgetown University

Institutionalizing Islam in Contemporary Austria

At the beginning of October 2014, a social democratic–conservative coalition government in Austria presented a draft for a new Islam Act. The unanimous voice of Muslims and the government declared that the existing Islam Act, which dated back to 1912, was now outdated. The government thus aimed to amend the existing act based on the constitutional framework of the Republic of Austria’s secular system, which can be characterized as a cooperative form of secularity, where the state legally recognizes churches and religious societies that cooperate with the state in several areas. The state is equally obliged not to interfere in the internal affairs of churches and religious societies, as they in turn are seen not to interfere in daily politics and political parties’ affairs.1 The state must be neutral and hence treat churches and religious societies equally (‘principle of parity’). In looking closely at the Islam Act, it is clear that these constitutional principles were not met. Rather, the act evidences massively unequal treatment and thus discrimination against Austrian Muslim people as members of a legally recognized religious society. This article compares the Islam Act of 2015 with the Israelite Act of 1890, version of 2012. Read the full paper, authored by Rijad Dautovic and me, in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion here