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ISLAM

Muslim preschools ‘linked to Islamist groups’

A state-funded study into Islamic kindergartens in Vienna suggests that Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish counterpart Milli Gorus have links to some of the capital's preschools.

Muslim preschools 'linked to Islamist groups'
Sebastian Kurz (centre). Photo: Ministry for Integration, Europe and Foreign Affairs

Austria’s Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) wants to introduce tighter controls on Islamic kindergartens to prevent radicalization and said he believed the study was necessary because there is a danger of “parallel societies emerging”.

The author of the study, Ednan Aslan, is a professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies at Vienna University. He found that the religious education preached by several of the capital's 150 Muslim establishments led to “theologically-motivated isolation” and robbed children of their autonomy through “intimidation”.

Intellectual Salafists and political Islamists are the dominant groups in the Islamic kindergarten scene in Vienna,” the study concluded.

“In many of their publications the Muslim Brotherhood and Milli Gorus reject the Western way of life as an inferior worldview,” Aslan writes in the 178 page study.

He told the Standard newspaper that it was not acceptable that a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, who runs a kindergarten in Vienna, should openly support the war in Syria or appear in a video in which he states that we want to evangelize in Europe”.

Many of the private Islamic preschools are subsidized by the City of Vienna – to the tune of €30 million – according to a report in the Krone newspaper.

Aslan said that the majority of the Islamic kindergartens were unwilling to participate in his study and that some took down their websites to make some data inaccessible. Only 71 out of 150 Islamic kindergartens agreed to be part of the study.

The Krone quotes one integration expert who contributed to Aslan’s report as saying that it is as easy to open an Islamic kindergarten in Vienna as it is “to open a kebab shop”.

The study feeds into a wider debate about Muslim integration in Austria where the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) is leading the polls following the migrant crisis.

The FPÖ deputy mayor of Vienna, Johann Gudenus, has said that he wants to hold a special parliamentary session on the subject of Islamic kindergartens and a motion of no confidence against the head of the education board, Sonja Wehsely (SPÖ).

Gudenus added all kindergartens in the capital should be run by the City of Vienna, and not by private individuals or groups. The FPÖ also wants a financial audit of all monetary transfers to kindergarten operators and wants an investigation into whether any funds could have gone to finance terrorist groups.

The president of Vienna's Muslim community, Fuat Sanat, has said that allegations of “Salafist” education in preschools are “ridiculous”.

ISLAM

Austrian government comes under fire over ‘Islam map’

The Austrian government came under fire on Thursday for a new "Islam map" showing the location of mosques and associations around the country, with religious groups saying it would stigmatise Austria's Muslim population.

Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)
Austrian Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled the controversial website. (JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Integration Minister Susanne Raab unveiled an internet website earlier called the “National Map of Islam” with the names and locations of more than 600 mosques, associations and officials and their possible links abroad.

However, the interactive map — compiled in collaboration with the University of Vienna and the Documentation Centre of Political Islam — alarmed many of Austria’s Muslims and the ruling centre-right ÖVP party’s coalition partner, the Greens, also distanced itself from it.

Map demonstrates ‘intent to stigmatise all Muslims’

The IGGÖ Muslim representative council said in a statement that it “demonstrates the government’s manifest intent to stigmatise all Muslims as a potential danger”.

The Green party’s spokeswoman for integration Faika El-Nagashi complained that “no Green minister or MP was involved or even told about it.

“The project mixes Muslims with Islamists and is the contrary to what integration policy should look like.”

Map not meant to ‘place Muslims in general under suspicion’

Raab insisted that the map was not meant to “place Muslims in general under suspicion”.

The aim was “to fight political ideologies, not religion,” she said. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has regularly criticised what he calls “political Islam”.

“Imagine if a similar map was drawn up for Judaism or Christianity,” said Tarafa Baghajati, the head of another Muslim organisation, complaining that it equated terrorism with religion.

He pointed out that around eight percent of Austria’s overall population of 8.9 million were practising Muslims and most of them had no links with such organisations. “It’s worrying and I’m disappointed with the government for adopting far-right ideas,” he said.

Rise reported in attacks against Muslims

Since a jihadist attack left four people dead in Vienna last November — the first to be carried out in Austria — a rise has been reported in the number of incidents in verbal and physical attacks against Muslims in the country. IGGÖ complained that “racism against Muslims is growing”.

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