Austria’s Unequal Religious Reform: An Attempt to Create an Austrian Form of Islam

Posted By Jenna Jacobsen, Apr 13, 2015

As of February 25, 2015, Austria passed a reform to their country’s 1912 Islam Law.[1] The original 1912 version made Islam an official religion of Austria and guaranteed Muslims “wide-ranging rights, including religious education in state schools.”[2] While most agreed that updates were necessary, Muslim leaders have said that the specific reforms enacted treat the Muslim population unequally.[3] Though the reforms include protections for Islamic holidays and training for imams, they also ban foreign funding for mosques and imams—but not for Jewish and Christian faiths.[4] The Austrian Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, stated that one of the goals of the new law is to have an “Austrian form of Islam.”[5] Though Kurz has claimed that the bill is not a reaction to recent Islamic extremist attacks elsewhere in Europe, he has said “With other religions, there is not the challenge that we have to fear influences from abroad and therefore have to be stricter with financing.”[6]

Despite the Integration Minister’s claims, it is difficult to believe that these inherently unequal reforms have nothing to do with the actions of Islamic extremists. If the purpose of this new law is to prevent their citizens’ religion from being influenced by outside forces, it is illogical to apply these restrictions exclusively to the Islamic faith. It is fundamentally unfair to demand one official state religion be exclusively Austrian while allowing other religions to continue to practice as a global religion.


[1] Austria Passes Controversial Reforms to 1912 Islam Law, BBC News (Feb. 25, 2015), http://m.bbc.com/news/world-europe-31629543.

[2] Bethany Bell, Austria’s Muslims Fear Changes to Historic Islam Law, BBC News (Nov. 4, 2014), http://m.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29814688.

[3] Austria Passes Controversial Reforms, supra note 1; Bell, supra note 2.

[4] Austria Passes Controversial Reforms, supra note 1.

[5] Bell, supra note 2.

[6] Austria Passes Controversial Reforms, supra note 1; Bell, supra note 2.