Austria’s Islamic Faith Community will open mosque doors

Austria's Islamic Faith Community (IGGiÖ) has expressed its objective to show more transparency to the greater Austrian population. In an interview with Kurier, the organization's president, Ibrahim Olgun stated that a portion of the country's 350 prayer spaces will be open to the public during Friday prayers.

Austria's Islamic Faith Community will open mosque doors
IGGÖ Pres. Ibrahim Olgun with Minster for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz - Photo: Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äußeres/Wikimedia
This would normally only be on the agenda for the upcoming Day of Open Mosques, however now it will be made a more regular occurrence. IGGiÖ's 28-year old presiding representative also shared his goal to convince Austrian imams to deliver their sermons in German, or to at least have them simultaneously translated.
His aims also include strengthening their youth outreach and education programs. According the statements he made in his interview with Kurier, the organization is currently in the process of creating a rubric for Muslim enterprises, such as kindergartens, to follow. The set of guidelines is said to comply with Vienna's plan for education.  
All in all, the Austrian Islamic Faith Community is looking to quell those who have grown suspect or fearful of Islam in the face of Islam-associated terror attacks that have accumulated in recent years. It is his goal to build solidarity against terrorism.
“Terrorists are abusing the religion. We are certain amongst ourselves that there is no justification for such terror, [but] it is outwardly that we must more clearly communicate this. We also expect representatives of other religions to make more nuanced assessments and to avoid simply pigeon-holing Muslims as scapegoats. They shouldn't fall into the trap set by these terrorists, whose goal it is to divide society.”


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”.