Institutionalizing Islam in Contemporary Austria

At the beginning of October 2014, a social democratic–conservative coalition government in Austria presented a draft for a new Islam Act. The unanimous voice of Muslims and the government declared that the existing Islam Act, which dated back to 1912, was now outdated. The government thus aimed to amend the existing act based on the constitutional framework of the Republic of Austria’s secular system, which can be characterized as a cooperative form of secularity, where the state legally recognizes churches and religious societies that cooperate with the state in several areas. The state is equally obliged not to interfere in the internal affairs of churches and religious societies, as they in turn are seen not to interfere in daily politics and political parties’ affairs.1 The state must be neutral and hence treat churches and religious societies equally (‘principle of parity’). In looking closely at the Islam Act, it is clear that these constitutional principles were not met. Rather, the act evidences massively unequal treatment and thus discrimination against Austrian Muslim people as members of a legally recognized religious society. This article compares the Islam Act of 2015 with the Israelite Act of 1890, version of 2012. Read the full paper, authored by Rijad Dautovic and me, in the Oxford Journal of Law and Religion here

Starting in minute 7:30, my interview on the Austrian government’s attempt to close mosques. Listen here

Austria’s Ban of the Hijab

How can we contextualize the initiative for banning the hijab? What is this ban’s main function? Is this law just another step of introducing discriminatory laws that treat Muslims differently than other religious groups? What can the Islamic Religious Community do about these plans? Read my analysis here

Is the Religion-line the Problem of the Twenty-First Century?

On Wednesday, April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Trump v. Hawaii case, in which the State of Hawaii is leading a challenge to an executive order preventing most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as certain visitors from North Korea and Venezuela from entering the United States. The Trump administration has argued that there are legitimate national security grounds for these restrictions, while critics argue that such widespread restrictions are religiously discriminatory (an assumption based largely on Trump’s own campaign calls for a Muslim ban). Yet, while several amicus briefs in opposition have been filed by religious groups from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian traditions (both Catholic and Protestant), other religiously affiliated groups have filed with no position on the order. Read my take on this case at Georgetown University’s Berkley Forum here

The French Initiative to Change the Qur’an

On April 21, a manifesto was published in the French daily Le Parisien. It was signed by some 300 prominent people, intellectuals and politicians including former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The manifesto “contre le nouvel antisémitisme (lit. against the new anti-Semitism)” basically stresses an older topic that is regularly popping up around the Global North, especially in France: According to this concept of “new antiSemitism”, anti-Semitism is currently not a threat perpetrated by the political far-right, but rather by Muslims living in the West.Part of the claim was to abrogate the Qur’an. How can we contextualize the initiative for changing the Qur’an? What are the philosophical bases of this initiative? Is there a genealogical connection to the Islamophobic network? What is the main function of this initiative?  Read full analysis here

The Change of Austria’s Islam Politics

The paper “Breaking with Austrian Consociationalism: How the Rise of Rightwing Populism and Party Competition Have Changed Austria’s Islam Politics”, which was published in the journal Politics and Religion seeks to explain Austria’s Islam-related politics by first suggesting that it can be best understood in terms of neo-institutionalist path-dependency and consociationalist policy-making. This is due to the fact that Austria gave Islam full legal recognition in 1912. Important institutional patterns and policies grew out of this law in the Second Republic, whose persistence we want to examine. The Islamic Religious Community constituted itself under public law as a neo-corporatist interest group for Muslims in Austria in 1979. More recently, the government’s approach toward Islam has shifted. This change can be best accounted for by party competition in which the far-right Freedom Party of Austria has sought to monopolize this issue. Consequently, this paper explores the contradictions between, on the one hand, the long-established principle of state neutrality and evenhandedness when dealing with various legally recognized religious communities and, on the other hand, discriminatory Islam-related politics. Read here

Postkoloniale Analyse der österreichischen Islampolitik

In “Alte neue Islampolitik in Österreich? Eine postkoloniale Analyse der österreichischen Islampolitik” (Zeitschrift für Politik) untersuche ich die österreichische Islampolitik zwischen 2011 und 2017 an den Schnittstellen von postkolonial informierter Politikwissenschaft und Religionspolitik. Mithilfe des Foucault’schen Dispositivs wird die österreichische Islampolitik mittels einer Analyse von Publikationen, Presseaussendungen, Regierungs- und Parteiprogrammen, sowie Gesetzen herausgearbeitet. Vor dem Hintergrund einer für Österreich identifizierten restriktiven Integrationspolitik, die einer inklusiven Sprechart gegenübersteht, wird nachgezeichnet, dass für die Islampolitik Ähnliches zu verzeichnen ist. Zusätzlich zu einer Ambivalenz von sprachlicher Inklusion und politischer Restriktivität ist eine Kooptierung von rechten Positionen zu erkennen. Den Artikel gibt es hier