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Islamic full face veil banned in Austria

The government faces pressure from far-right populists. In a country with 7% of Muslims, evangelical churches differ on what the role of Islam should be.

SOURCES Deutsche Welle, The Guardian, Evangelical Focus AUTHOR Evangelical Focus VIENNA 02 FEBRUARY 2017 12:12 h GMT+1
niqab, islam, austria The full face veil. / Getty

The Islamic ‘niqab’ will be banned in Austria. Chancellor Christian Kern announced the measure as a part of his new program to stop the rise of the far-right populists.



“The full-face veil will be banned in public spaces”, Kern said after Austrian ministers approved the new policies.



According to the Austrian leader, the plan could help avoid “giving 600,000 Muslims in Austria the feeling that they are not part of our society”.



The program has 35 pages and defends the idea that an “open society is also based on open communication”, which the “full-body veils in public spaces stand against”.



A similar ban has been place in France and Belgium since 2011. The Netherlands introduced a partial ban in 2015.



 



THE CHALLENGE OF POPULISM



The new government program comes after the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) almost won the presidential election in December, earning 47% of the votes.



In January 2017, the leader of this populist party, Heinz-Christian Strache, had called for a “Islamisation ban”, describing Islam as “misogynistic”, “anti-liberal”, and as having “a fascistic worldview”.



The FPÖ leader also said the country “needs zero immigration”.



 



Publicity for anti-immigration FPÖ party in Austria. / AP



 



THE VIEW OF EVANGELICALS



In the midst of the political debate on Islam, migration and refugee politics, evangelical Christians need to find their own biblical approach, pastor and Austrian Evangelical Alliance member Frank Hinkelmann told Evangelical Focus (read full interview).



“The evangelical church mirrors the general feeling in society. We have a number of churches which are really reaching out to refugees, both in helping them in practical ways but also sharing the love of Christ. On the other hand, there are also many evangelicals who are afraid of Austria turning Muslim”, he said.

 



MUSLIMS ARE 7% OF POPULATION



Austria has a population of 8.7 million people. Around 600,000 are Muslim, some of whom arrived to Europe as asylum seekers in the last years.


 

 


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