SPIEGEL ONLINE - January 28, 2008, 12:33 PM
NO MORE 'UNUSUAL BUILDINGS' IN AUSTRIA?
Far-Right Party Tries to Ban Mosque Construction
A far-right party in the Austrian state of Carinthia, led by the notorious right-wing politician Jörg Haider, is trying to ban the construction of mosques and minarets. They've presented a draft law designed to prohibit "unusual" buildings that don't fit in with traditional architecture.
In the latest anti-Islam initiative by right-wing politicians in Austria, the government in the state of Carinthia, which is led by right-wing populist Jörg Haider, has presented a bill that would hinder the future building of mosques in the state.
"With the help of this law, it will be de facto impossible to construct mosques or minarets in Carinthia," Uwe Scheuch, the minister responsible for urban planning, told journalists Saturday at a press conference where he presented the draft law. Scheuch, who belongs to Haider's right-wing Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) party, insisted, however, that the law would not infringe on Austria's constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Officially, the law is not aimed directly at mosques and minarets, but at "unusual" buildings that stand out "because of their unusual architecture or size (height)." In the future, a special commission will determine if an unusual construction project "blends in with the neighborhood's existing architecture." If not, it will be possible to block its construction.
BZÖ will need the support of the conservative Austrian People's Party if it is to get the draft law passed in the state government. That seems assured, however, as the People's Party had asked the state government last year to prepare a draft law to ban the construction of mosques and minarets. The Social Democrats and Greens, who are also in the state's unity government, have spoken out against the law.
The draft law reflects a growing wave of anti-Muslim sentiment in Austria, where Muslims make up around 4 percent of the population. Another Austrian state, Vorarlberg, which has the highest proportion of Muslims in Austria, is also considering a ban on minarets.
Erwin Pröll, the governor of the state of Lower Austria, who belongs to the People's Party, recently described minarets as "alien" to Austrian culture in a television interview. Susanne Winter, a politician for the right-wing Freedom Party, which Haider used to belong to before splitting off to set up the BZÖ, called the Prophet Muhammad a "child molester" during a recent election campaign.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a planned mosque in Cologne has also been causing controversy. A right-wing citizens' initiative called Pro Cologne has been protesting its construction -- with the help of far-right politicians from Austria's Freedom Party.