Morning Assembly prayer at a school in Srinagar

In addition to Europe’s existing restrictions on veils, the Austrian coalition Government has, on Wednesday, approved a ban on head scarf for girls under 10 in primary schools. The law which relates to “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head”, has however, exempted the Jewish Kippah and Sikh turbans citing a reference to head garments that “cover all of the hair or large parts of it.” Exceptions are also made for medical bandages covering the head and apparel worn to protect rain or snow.

Representatives of both parts of the Governing coalition have made it clear that the law is aimed to deal with the Islamic headscarf. A spokesperson for the right-wing coalition Government has said that the law is necessary to free girls from subjugation. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, had said in April 2018 that “Covering up small children is definitely not something for which there should be space in our country.” Kurz was responsible for overseeing an Austrian ban on full-face coverings in 2017 which was introduced as part of an “integration” policy aimed at limiting the visibility of orthodox Islam in public life.

The bill will face legal challenges as Islamic religious organisations plan to dispute the law in Constitutional Court. They say that similar legislations affecting schools are normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs. The Austrian Muslims’ organisation, IGGÖ called it ”shameful” and described it as a ”diversion tactic”.

Two parties, ÖVP and FPÖ formed a coalition after elections in late 2017 and both parties have taken a tough anti-immigration stance and have warned of the dangers of “parallel societies”.

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