Austria bans headscarf in primary schools

The ruling rightwing government of Austria proposed a law aimed at banning the headscarf in primary schools which was approved by the MPs.

The Guardian reported that the text refers to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head”. However, representatives of both parts of the governing coalition, the centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), have made it clear that despite its wide description, the law is targeted at the Islamic headscarf.

The ÖVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from subjugation.

However, the law exempts head covering worn by Sikh boys and the Jewish kippa.

Condemning the proposals, Austria’s official Muslim community organisation, IGGÖ, called it as “shameless” and a “direct assault on the religious freedom of Austrian Muslims”. The organisation is mulling over challenging the validity of the law at Austria’s constitutional court.

Almost all opposition MPs voted against the measure. While some accused that the government is focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare. Saying that the ban threatened to do more harm than good, Irmgard Griss, of the liberal Neos party, said the government is making the girls at Austrian schools responsible for the repressive policies of authoritarian regimes in Iran or Saudi Arabia. Griess said, there was no evidence that girls found it more difficult to learn when wearing a headscarf.

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