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ISLAM

New Law on Islam prohibits foreign funding

Austria’s new Law on Islam will prohibit Muslim organisations receiving funding from abroad. This will also affect imams who work in Austria but are financially supported by Turkey.

New Law on Islam prohibits foreign funding
Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz. Photo: APA/Neubauer

The amendment is designed to limit the power of “influences from abroad” Foreign and Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) said.

He added that a one-off grant from abroad, such as money left in someone’s will, could be allowed but that the management of any such assets must be done within Austria.

All “living subsidies” will be covered by the rule, including the money given to imams. Currently there are around 300 imams in Austria, and 65 of them are employed by Turkey. The new law would mean they could no longer work in Austria.

It will also compel Muslim organisations to teach at least one lesson in German, and states that officials within the community will be dismissed if they are found to have a criminal conviction or are considered to pose a threat to public safety.

'Suspicion and mistrust'

Under the terms of the draft bill, state-recognised religious organisations will have to offer a unified German-language version of their doctrine and sources of faith, including for the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

At present, there are two officially recognised Islamic organisations in Austria.

"Among the Muslim base, the law is not seen as a gift for the Eid holiday," said Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman of the Islamic Community of Faith in Austria (IGGiO).

"(The bill) mirrors in its overtone the spirit of the times we currently perceive, which is marked by blanket suspicion and mistrust against Muslims," she said.

She was hopeful the legislation might still be amended.

The draft bill is under review until November 7th, and is due to become law in early 2015.

Austria’s current Law on Islam, dating from 1912, is seen as a symbol of tolerance.

The law gives Muslims the same rights as other officially recognised religions in Austria, such as Catholicism, Lutheranism, Judaism and Buddhism and guarantees Muslims wide-ranging rights including religious education in state schools, administration of internal affairs and public worship.

Kurz said that the law contained a clear message which is that “there is no contradiction between being a devout Muslim and also being proud to be Austrian.”

He said sharia, or Islamic law, had "no place here".

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CRIME

Case dropped against second Swiss man over Vienna attack ‘links’

Swiss prosecutors said Thursday they had dropped the case against a second Swiss man over alleged links to a deadly shooting rampage in Vienna due to a lack of evidence.

Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Armed police officers stand guard before the arrival of Austrian Chancellor Kurz and President of the European Council to pay respects to the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria on November 9,2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG), which last month decided to drop the case against one suspect, told AFP it had issued a discontinuation order in the case against a second man.

On November 2, 2020, convicted Islamic State sympathiser Kujtim Fejzulai killed four people in Vienna before being shot dead by police.

It was the first major attack in Austria in decades and the first blamed on a jihadist.

Two Swiss citizens who knew Fejzulai were arrested in the northeastern Swiss town of Winterthur just a day after the attack on suspicion they may have helped in its preparation.

‘How was it possible?’ Austrians left asking painful questions after Vienna terror shootings

The two, who were aged 18 and 24 at the time, were known to the police and were the targets of prior criminal cases over terror-linked offences.

The OAG acknowledged Thursday that no evidence had emerged that either man had participated in any way or had prior knowledge of the attack.

The older of the two men was meanwhile hit with a penalty in a separate case with no links to the Vienna file, the OAG said.

The penalty order, seen by Swiss media, indicated that he had been found guilty of violating Switzerland’s law banning Al-Qaeda, Islamic State and related organisations and of being in possession of “depictions of violence”.

According to the ATS news agency, an IS group video was found on his phone depicting people being executed and decapitated.

He was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence, a fine of 1,000 Swiss francs ($1,100, 950 euros), and three years’ probation, ATS said.

ANALYSIS: Vienna terror attack was ‘only a matter of time’

In light of this penalty, he would not be compensated for the 176 days he spent behind bars after his arrest following the Vienna attack, it added.

The OAG said a separate case was still pending against the younger of the two men, also on suspicion he breached the Swiss law banning Al-Qaeda, IS and related organisations, and over “allegations of depictions of violence”. “The presumption of innocence applies,” it stressed.

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