Austrian MP wears headscarf to protest ban

By Askin Kiyagan

VIENNA, Austria – An independent member of Austria’s parliament wore a headscarf during her general assembly speech Wednesday to protest the banning of the religious head covering in primary schools.

This is the first step to ban headscarves in everyday life, said Martha Bissman.

In the last decade, racism and Islamophobia have increased because of the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), she said.

She said those who introduced the ban want to eliminate “high values such as tolerance and freedom of religion”.

Austria's far-right government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the youngest leader in Europe, introduced a draft law late last year in parliament, planning to implement it without the support of the opposition.

The draft law banned headscarves for girls under the age of 10 at all primary schools, including private schools across the country.

A large number of non-governmental organizations, journalists and activists as well as the Muslim community living in Austria opposed the ban.

Austria is home to around 700,000 Muslims, including 300,000 of Turkish origin. Many of them are second or third-generation Austrian citizens from Turkish families who migrated to the country in the 1960s.

Amid widespread fears from the refugee crisis and international terrorism, Austria’s right-wing parties proposed several controversial measures including strict controls on mosques and Muslim associations and immediately closing them in the case of suspicious activity.

In October 2017, Austria imposed a face-covering ban which prevents people from concealing their face in all public places, including transport facilities.

*Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic