Austria’s parliament has passed a law intended to ban Muslim girls from wearing the headscarf in primary schools. The Jewish yarmulke and Sikh patka are not included in the new measure.
To avoid the impression that it targets Muslims, the text refers to any “ideologically or religiously influenced clothing which is associated with the covering of the head.”
FPOe education spokesman Wendelin Moelzer said the law was “a signal against political Islam” while OeVP MP Rudolf Taschner said the measure was necessary to free girls from “subjugation”.
The bill passed with the support of the governing center-right People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). Almost all of the opposition voted against it.
The government said late Wednesday that the patka head covering worn by Sikh boys or the Jewish yarmulke would not be affected because the law refers to head garments that “cover all of the hair or large parts of it.”Exceptions are made for head coverings for medical reasons or protection against rain or snow.
Austria’s official Muslim community organisation IGGOe has previously condemned the proposals as “shameless” and a “diversionary tactic”. It says that in any case only a “minuscule number” of girls would be affected.
Opposition MPs almost all voted against the measure, with some accusing the government of focusing on garnering positive headlines rather than child welfare.
The government admits that the law is likely to be challenged at Austria’s constitutional court, either on grounds of religious discrimination or because similar legislation affecting schools is normally passed with a two-thirds majority of MPs.