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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.
“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”.
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”.
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.