Freedom of Expression in Austria
Freedom of Speech in Austria – Working Paper
By ESW and HF
Excuse me, can you help me? I think I’m wrong here. Isn’t this Europe? The European Union? Where freedom of expression, as matter of fact, ANY freedom, reigns supreme?
In August 2007, freedom of expression and assembly was, for all intents and purposes, killed. A group of people of all ages and nationalities wanted to gather in Brussels to commemorate the victims of the September 11 attacks and, at the same time, peacefully identify the creeping Islamization of Europe. The demonstration was officially registered with the city and the mayor of Brussels and, after deliberations, prohibited. According to Paul Belien of the Brussels Journal:
Surely the fact that Mayor Thielemans’ party holds the majority in the city council, and 10 out of 17 councillors are Muslim, was helpful in reaching this decision. Freedom of assembly for those opposing one thing or another, but especially the commemoration of the victims of 9/11 and the Islamization of Europe, was dead as of August 2007 – and with it, freedom of expression.
The situation in Austria is complicated by the fact that Islam is officially recognized as a religion, holding the same status and privileges that the Roman Catholic or the Greek Orthodox Churches are accorded by law. Some background:
Austria is unique among the Western European countries insofar as it has granted Muslims the status of a recognized religious community. This dates back to the times following Austria-Hungary‘s annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Austria has regulated the religious freedoms of the Muslim community with the constitutional law of 1878 This law was expanded and elaborated in 1912 with the so-called “Law on Islam”. This law, in turn, was reactivated in 1979 when the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich) was founded and given the status of a religious organization and public corporation. This Law on Islam has led to the following:
· Exercise of religious freedom within the limits of the current jurisdiction of the Federal Constitutional Court
· Free religious instruction in schools as mandated by federal law
· The state is obliged to provide instructional material and to pay religious instructors’ salaries
· The state has no influence over teaching personnel selection or the content of religious curriculum, which was last updated in 1983 and includes the portrayal of the replacement of a non-Muslim with a Muslim society
· In 1988, a change to the federal law on Islam was passed, clarifying which religious schools in Islam were to be accepted and covered by the Law on Islam. Until then, only the Bosnian Hanefa school of jurisprudence had been accepted
Recognition of a religion is not only limited to formal equal treatment of symbols and rituals; it is also a material right – hence the public funding of religious institutions. A further significant pillar of recognition is the dialogue between State authorities and faith organizations.
Politicians, think tanks, and citizens, young and old, believe that this law on Islam makes Islam acceptable. Islam’s status is not to be challenged. There is simply no need for any scrutiny. The law was passed, so its doctrine is therefore acceptable, no matter its content. The law says:
“The religious community of the adherents of Islam according to the Hanafite rite shall, both as regards the community as such and religious worship and religious servants, enjoy the same legal protection as is granted to other legally recognized religious communities.
The doctrines of Islam, its institutions and customs shall enjoy the same protection too, unless they are in contradiction to state law.” However, the Quran has never been scrutinized for such contradictions!
This has resulted in the advent of a new language: the language of political correctness. This includes the acceptance and teaching of historical lies, thus contributing to the perpetuation of life-long illusions. For example, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all considered part of the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths. This is considered mainstream, to be believed, regardless of whether it is true or not. For example, in so-called interfaith dialogues only that which connects us, rather than that which separates us, is highlighted.
In addition, we are continuously told by the Turkish population and by Anas Shakfeh (the president of the Islamic Religious Association) [the useful idiots] that it is unfair to put Islam under general suspicion. It is not the religion that might be the problem: it is the followers who misinterpret the religious beliefs. What is there to misinterpret? This leads straight to the next convenient untruth: we must differentiate between Islam and Islamism. Now, what is there to differentiate? Is there Christianity and Christianism? Yet one is simply not allowed to say that Islam is the problem. Isn’t allowed because Islam is an officially recognized religious group.
Similarly, there are protests organized by citizens against the building of new mosques. We are not talking about mosques housed in buildings, as they have been for decades. We are talking about mosques with minarets and their attachments, including the mosque contested in Brigittenau, an immigrant-rich district in Vienna. Again, some background:
The mosque was built in 1996 to cater to 250 worshipers and is run by the ATIB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria. According to the ATIB’s website, its members are Turks, Austrians of Turkish descent, and Muslims. The ATIB’s purpose is, of course, intercultural dialogue as well as assistance in integration matters. Its principles are based on equality among all human beings and racial and sexual non-discrimination. They do not elaborate.
ATIB has been planning the massive enlargement of this mosque for the past decade. These plans include the erection of a larger mosque with a total of 1,500 m2 and a capacity of 1,000 worshipers, a Turkish supermarket, a kindergarten, seminar rooms, as well as apartments. These plans go far beyond the argument of “free religious practice” to justify building a large mosque. The area surrounding the mosque is bound to become a pilgrimage center. The already unbearable effects of this cultural center include noise, exhaust pollution, and a lack of parking. The organizers of the civil resistance group are demanding the shutdown of this Islamic center and its being moved to a suitable location outside residential areas.
Again, if one protests against these plans, one is immediately considered a “right-winger”, a “Nazi”, a “xenophobe” – you name it. The media report these protests along these lines, trying to portray the demonstrators as an immigrant-hating, anti-Islamic, evil mob. Add to this a handful of neo-Nazis – who try to take advantage of the marches – and you have the left-wingers rejoicing and warning against the rise of fascism. If you dare to voice your concern, you are immediately denounced. Where, then, is freedom of speech and opinion?
Another untruth concerns the Crusades, as they are considered by everyone (that is, everyone not fully aware of history and/or too lazy to study the Crusades) to have been the first imperialistic attack. Again, if one dares to challenge this, one is immediately denounced and corrected with the contention that the “evil Christians” are to be blamed for everything. Anyway, since Islam is peace, it must be the Christians, right? There is no freedom of opinion if you are denounced, is there? What is deplorable is the fact that there is no acceptance of dissent. One simply cannot hold a differing opinion without being accused of ignorance, racism, and everything under the sun.
In Austria there is an interesting phenomenon that has been introduced by Omar Al-Rawi, the socialist member of Vienna city council. He says there must be “integration by participation”. Omar al Rawi:
“We Muslims are not religiously defined, but we do want more participation.” Question: “What is your program in addition to the SPÖ (socialist party) program?” Al-Rawi’s answer: “We must discuss this.” When Al-Rawi was confronted again with his statement, he accused the inquirer of being an enemy of Islam.
Let’s turn to the situation for the individual citizen:
There is no freedom of opinion and expression whatsoever.
§ One must adapt to any official version in order to be accepted in society
§ Muslims are favored
o Celebrating Iftar (the breaking of the fast) with president, prime minister, and mayor. There are no comparable invitations offered to other religious groups
o Accepting that Muslims have been offended in the course of history: Napoleon was in Egypt, Atatürk abolished the caliphate in Turkey
§ There is wide-spread discrimination of the native population:
In all dialogue situations with Muslims, the West is associated with Christianity, and individualistic, secular society is simply faded out. Those who are non-religious (syncretists, agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, etc.) rightly ask themselves who their representatives are in all those interfaith dialogues. Similarly, they ask why their concept of life and the separation of church and state are worth less than religious belief, especially that of Islam. In addition, members of the police force, ambulance and hospital staff, and teachers are never incorporated into any meaningful discussion or asked about their experiences.
§ Slogan: What must we do for Muslims to accept us?
What follows the above is the consolidation of a parallel society. Let us examine its manifestations in Austria
§ by allowing Muslim medical students to refrain from taking off their headscarves in the operating theaters; young doctors are reluctant to perform any check-ups on patients of the opposite sex
§ by allowing Muslim medical students to refuse to perform anatomical dissections on patients of the opposite sex
§ by allowing Muslims to successfully demand female doctors for female patients;
§ by setting up mosques in hospitals (as seen in the largest hospital in Austria, the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna)
In schools and kindergartens
§ by introducing multiculturalism by not allowing St. Nicholas Day and Christmas to be celebrated in public kindergartens
§ by offering catering without any pork products
§ by considering taking down crosses and other religious symbols in classrooms
§ by remaining silent in the wake of demands for such things as
o that all teachers should be required to wear a veil
o that the children should not be admonished publicly
o that the children should not participate in singing (as it is considered prostitution) and swimming lessons
o that the teachers are not worthy of being addressed politely
§ Islamic teachers in Austrian schools declare that “men and women may not sit and work together, that it is against Islam for boys and girls to go on school excursions together, that suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine are sacrificing themselves for God, and that it is sinful to do military service in non-Islamic countries”.
In the Austrian Army
§ by providing a mosque in barracks in Vienna (the first in Europe)
§ by providing two imams for 1,000 Muslim soldiers (3,5% of the total force)
§ by accepting the refusal of Muslim recruits to perform the salute to the flag
§ There has been a continuous down-playing of Muslim outrageousness
§ The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) has been sugar-coating Islam and Turkey for many years and does not question Muslim claims
§ An example: In the show “Killing for Allah?” the viewer is not told whether or not Islam provides a foundation for terrorism. Additional claims include
o Islam equals diversity. Yet there is the Muslim allegation of non-believers’ (kafir) guilt leading to conflict
o Terror in Great Britain was committed by British citizens. Why is the fact that the terrorists were naturalized Pakistanis neglected?
o Muslims of French nationality claim they have no legal right to work and housing. This allegation needs to be elaborated on. It sounds implausible
o A Muslim may only fight in a war in the case of attack. However, what constitutes an attack? For instance, the presence of non-Muslims on Muslim territory allows for war
o British openness allows for hate preachers. It has not been explained that Western tolerance is being exploited by Muslims
o At a conference of imams in Vienna, topics for discussion were, among others, how Muslims in Austria are continuously being excluded. However, it was not explored how acceptance can be expected if the Western way of life is rejected and Westerners are considered “kuffar”
§ The following was reported in a radio show:
o The book The Lawful and the Prohibited by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi was used only temporarily when in reality it had been banned after Austrian authorities intervened
o It was said that the Quran is adapted to today’s situations. [This is simply a claim. The truth is, the Quran cannot ever be adapted as it is the word of Allah for all eternity.
o Hijab is part of the religion. Many so-called Muslim women disagree
o Women are no longer discriminated against in inheritance laws. It would be important for Austrian/European women to know that in reality – should they choose to marry an Egyptian, for example – they certainly would be discriminated against. The same is true for testimony in court. Sharia is the legal code for inheritance in Egypt
§ Euphemisms are used for Muslims: “Asian youth”, “südländisch aussehend” (having a southern appearance)
§ In the case of Susanne Winter, the FPÖ mayoral candidate of the city of Graz, the media attacked Winter rather than examining whether there could be any truth to her “allegations”. Instead, Omar Al-Rawi is quoted as saying that “there is a lack of respect” and “that such Islam bashing has reached a point in Austria that “one wants to puke”. Right away the media connects the dots and informs the public that Winter’s behavior can be explained by her membership in Jörg Haider’s former party, the far-right FPÖ (Freedom Party). This membership in itself makes her guilty, it is suggested. Others immediately come to the Muslims’ aid:
Politicians and Christian clerics denounced in unison Winter’s comments and called for her resignation. The deputy head of the Green Party, Eva Glawischnig, said that the remarks were “unprecedented religion-baiting”. Omar Al-Rawi, a Muslim member of the Social Democrat Party SPÖ, condemned the lack of respect the FPÖ politician showed for Islam and its prophet. “The FPÖ’s Islam-bashing … is stomach-turning,” he told the daily Die Presse. The head of the Ecumenical Forum of Christian Churches, Hermann Miklas, added his condemnation. “We as Christians distance ourselves from such remarks, which are contemptuous of other religions,” Miklas said.
It should – it must – be possible to discuss religion, any and all aspects of a religion. It should and must be possible to be contemptuous of a religion. This is freedom of opinion and it must be upheld. However, the European Union is actively aiding the loss of freedom of opinion and thus playing into the hands of Muslims and their plans to Islamize Europe. This statement can be contrasted with a meeting organized by a group of Muslim women. Pierre Vogel, Abu Hamza, was on a speaking tour and stopped in St. Pölten, the capital of Lower Austria, to cater to the needs of the local Muslim-Turkish population. Vogel is under close scrutiny by the German “Verfassungsschutz” for his statements against the equality of men and women. He is also known for his radicalism in inciting extremism among converts. Here is a man who finds nothing wrong in denouncing Judeo-Christian values and traditions, who is being watched by German authorities, who asks crowds “Who killed millions of people and is responsible for two world wars?” Austrian authorities found nothing wrong and allowed the meeting to go ahead.
Austrian citizens are also confronted with the establishment of innocuous EU- or government-sponsored agencies such as the “Initiative Weltethos” (www.weltethos.at), which states:
Statement of “Initiative Weltethos” Austria on the defamation of World Religions
For ethical reasons and in terms of efforts to restore peace between the religions Global Ethic initiative Austria statements condemns those that defame persons and their and writings which are sacred to the followers of the world’s religions. It is legitimate to criticize individual religious fanatics who engage in terrorist attacks. But to generally criticize a world religion is not only to defame but also a testament that is primitive and unfair, and a downright incitement.
Since such a stance is contrary to all principles of ethics – non-violence, tolerance, justice, fairness, honesty, mutual respect and love – the Initiative Weltethos rejects these dafamations, because there is no peace between nations without peace among religions, no peace among religions without dialogue, no dialogue without global ethical standards and no survival of our globe without a global ethic.
…or the “Demokratiezentrum Wien (Center for Democracy Vienna,
http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/de/startseite/themen/demokratiedebatten/kampf_der_kulturen_/papst-rede.html, http://www.demokratiezentrum.org/de/startseite/themen/demokratiedebatten/kampf_der_kulturen_/meinungsfreiheit.html), and – even worse – the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, whose director said upon nomination that his foremost goal was to erase Islamophobia.
In Austria itself, it is impossible for the average citizen to ask questions like, “What does a Muslim believe?” or “Who is represented by the Islamic Religious Association?”, and receive an answer, any answer. These questions are taboo and considered a form of racism.
Currently, those of us in Austria asking taboo questions are not being persecuted (yet), but there is serious risk of being ostracized by society by being accused of racism. This situation will most certainly be exacerbated by the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.