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Austrian Legislation against Foreign Funding for Religious Groups
- In February 2015, the Austrian Parliament passed reforms to the century-old Islam Law from 1912, redefining Muslims’ rights and responsibilities vis-à-vis the state.
- Paragraph 6.2 (p.3) of the 2015 law introduces restrictions on funding for religious societies, effectively banning any foreign funding, and fundraising must be done “domestically.”
- The law was passed by the “red-black” coalition of the two large moderate parties, SPÖ (center-left) and ÖVP (center-right), and was largely opposed by the opposition parties.
- Far-right opposition party FPÖ opposed on the grounds that the law is insufficient in order to keep radical Islam at bay.
- The Green Party, also in the opposition, fears the ban on foreign financing will put Muslim communities under financial pressure and lead to non-transparent forms of funding.
- The Turkish government has openly spoken against the law, arguing it amounts to Islamophobia. According to Gatestone Institute, the restrictions apply especially to Turkey: 60 of the 300 Muslim clerics working in Austria are Turkish civil servants whose salaries are being paid for by the Turkish government’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet).
- In an interview for the BBC, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz who initiated the law, stated: “What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values.”