Austrian minister wants to ban civil servants from wearing hijab but not crucifixes

Austria's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, Sebastian Kurz. [Credit: Sputnik]

Austria’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration said he wants to ban public servants and school teachers from wearing the hijab but not the cross, news agency Reuters reports.

Sebastian Kurz, of the Christian Conservative People’s Party (OVP), said yesterday that he is working on a draft bill with Muna Duzdar, a junior minister from the OVP’s senior Social Democrat coalition partner.

If passed by the Austrian parliament, the national ban would be stricter than laws in France, where only the niqab is illegal, or Germany, where the highest court in 2015 limited MPs’ scope to ban teachers from wearing the hijab.

According to a spokesman, Mr Kurz said: “Because there (schools), it’s about the effect of role models and the influence on young people. Austria is religion-friendly but also a secular state.”

Christian crosses, which are commonly worn in Catholic majority Austria, should be allowed in classrooms, Mr Kurz added, stating that it was the country’s “historically grown culture”.

An adviser to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in March that companies should be allowed to prohibit staff from wearing the hijab but only as part of a general ban on all religious and political symbols.

Mr Kurz is reviewing Austria’s integration laws and also plans to include a ban on the abaya and the niqab, as well as the public distribution of the Qur’an, his spokesman said.

A spokeswoman for Austria’s biggest Muslim organisation, IGGIO, stated that discrimination in the workplace on religious grounds was illegal in Austria. She said: “After such a statement, trust is badly shaken.”

She added that such a ban would send the wrong message, not least because working women wearing the hijab could help overcome deep “patriarchal prejudices”.

The coalition has not set a deadline for the draft to be completed.

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