Austria: Chancellor meets Muslim body over headscarf ban

Chancellor says government determined to put headscarf ban into effect in kindergarten and primary schools

By Askin Kiyagan

VIENNA (AA) - Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in a meeting with representatives of the country's Muslim body on Friday reiterated his stance on a headscarf ban in kindergarten and primary schools.

Kurz met Ibrahim Olgun, the head of the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria (IGGO) and the authority's representative for women Carla Amina Baghajati.

"I told the Islamic Religious Authority of Austria that as the Austrian government, we are determined to put the headscarf ban into effect in kindergartens and primary schools," he said after the meeting.

Olgun, speaking to Anadolu Agency, said that Austrian Muslims will challenge the ban legally, adding that the headscarf is not a political symbol.

"We told Mr. Chancellor that the headscarf is a religious subject. Muslims do it out of their free will. There is no force or pressure, and a majority of Muslim families don't make their children cover their heads in kindergartens or primary schools.

"But we can't understand the Chancellor's manner about it," Olgun said.

He expressed fears that the ban may be extended to high schools and universities.

Austria's new coalition government, consisting of the far-right Freedom Party and centre-right Austrian People's Party, is aiming to create a draft law to ban young Muslim girls to wear headscarves in kindergartens and primary schools, a culture which they say attacks the country's mainstream culture.

In the elections last October, the coalition campaigned against the influx of immigrants in Europe.

In Austria, where Islam has been one of the officially recognized religions since 1912, there is a population of over 600,000 Muslims, corresponding to seven percent of the population, according to figures obtained from the Vienna Islamic Federation.

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