Ire in Austrian politics over anti-democratic Islam teachers

5th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

In a project on Islamic religious education in Austria, 21.9 percent of surveyed teachers said they were opposed to democracy because it is at odds with Islam.

Vienna -- After a study found one fifth of Austria's Islamic religious education teachers to have anti-democratic views, politicians are voicing concerns, and far-right parties are calling for drastic measures.

In a dissertation project on Islamic religious education in Austria, 21.9 percent of surveyed teachers said they were opposed to democracy because it is at odds with Islam.

Some 27 percent opposed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the same reason, said Mouhanad Khorchide, the study's author and a religious education researcher at the University of Vienna.

"I think this gives cause for concern," Khorchide said in a telephone interview.

The dissertation, which is to be published in the coming weeks in Germany, was made public last month by the Vienna weekly Der Falter.

The Education Ministry reacted swiftly, demanding that the Muslim community's teaching inspectors by February 12 should explain "how the goals of the community's Islamic education and its compliance with the goals of civic education ... are safeguarded."

The inspectors supervise Austria's 350 to 400 Islamic religious educators.

Staying true to their anti-Islamic stance, Austria's far-right parties showed less patience or rhetorical restraint.

"Religious education teachers who take pride in their radical position must be immediately deported, as they are not compatible with our set of values," said Monika Muehlwerth, education spokeswoman of Austria's Freedom Party.

Radical Islamists should not be allowed to "slowly poison" society, said parliamentarian Gerald Grosz of the Alliance for the Future of Austria.

But other political parties, such as the conservative People's Party and the left-leaning Greens, also voiced concerns.

"We need a discussion that will hopefully be conducted in a fair manner," an Islamic community spokeswoman said.

Carla Amina Baghajati stressed that politics was not part of Islamic religious education and that her community had already embarked on improving quality controls for its teachers.

The Austrian Islamic Community represents some 400,000 Muslims living in the country. Many of them have their roots in Turkey or the former Yugoslavia.

Khorchide said that the Muslim community should do more to improve the education of its teachers, 37 per cent of whom have neither theological nor education training, despite teaching in public schools.

For his study, Khorchide interviewed 199 teachers. He found older teachers and those with Arabic rather than Turkish origins more likely to voice anti-democratic views.

Austrian authorities leave it to the Muslim community to decide who can teach religion to the country's 47,000 Muslim students.

"It would be totally wrong if the discussion would continue in this direction," Khorchide said in reaction to the rightist's statements. "We should ask ourselves what we can do for youths, in terms of an integrated society."


0 Comments To This Article