Austria enacted an integration law to promote Austrian culture among asylum seekers and refugees, but Muslims are furious about the religious restrictions it imposes.
The Integration Law, effective as of Oct. 1, bans Islamic face coverings in any public place and mandates that immigrants must sign an integration contract, take German language classes and classes on Austrian legal and social order, and pass an immigration exam proving their grasp of those topics.
The Austrian government passed the law for “the promotion of integration by strengthening the participation in society and securing the peaceful coexistence in Austria.”
Some Muslims, like Algerian-French businessman Rachid Nekkaz, view the new law as Islamophobic. Under the law, those in violation of the face veil ban could face fines up to $585 and two weeks in jail, according to Gatestone Institute.
“I am reaching out to all women in Europe and especially to women in Austria who voluntarily wear the burqa, I will always be there and pay the fines,” Nekkaz said according to Reuters.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, who helped develop and promote the new law and leads the Austrian People’s Party, said Austria will not stand for Nekkaz’s interference, or for any attempts to subvert Austrian law and society.
“In this case, Mr. Nekkaz would have to take appropriate consequences,” Kurz told Kronen Zeitung. “We will not tolerate any symbols that aim to build a counter-society with us.”
Kurz and his party promoted the law amidst a perceived immigration crisis in Austria, namely the “exploding radicalization of the Salafist scene in Austria” observed since 2014 by Austria’s Agency for State Protection and Counterterrorism. Kurz linked the threat of radicalization within Austria to uncontrolled immigration and the failure to integrate with Austrian culture.
“The immigration seen in recent years is changing our country not in a positive but in a negative way,” Kurz said according to The Local.
Rather than halt immigration, however, Kurz introduced the Integration law to bring what he saw as much-needed regulation to Austria’s immigration laws in order to fix the cultural divide between immigrants and locals.
“The new integration law regulates the central framework conditions for the integration of people who want to settle in Austria: We need clear rules and regulations in order to achieve social solidarity and social peace,” Kurz said of the new law. “The principle on which this law is based is ‘integration through performance.’ People are not judged by their country of origin but by their will to contribute to Austria. The main goal of this law is to promote integration.”
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