February 12, the Day of Reckoning
Introduction to Part 4
by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
On January 15, the parliamentary constitutional committee convened for the first time on the topic of the Law on Islam. This meeting included representatives of all parties in parliament as well as one expert nominated by each party. The Freedom Party called on Christian Zeitz for his expertise, while Team Stronach relied on Harald Fiegl to testify. Both decisions turned out to be good ones, as their testimony could not be refuted by anyone on committee, nor by the minister in charge of the drafting of the initial law.
Below are two news articles from the period, as translated by JLH. First, from the Austrian News Agency:
FPÖ Member Stefan: Islam Act: Back to the Start — The Act Does Not Achieve its Purpose
January 13, 2015
Expert Hearing in Parliament confirms the misgivings of the Austrian Freedom Party
Vienna: “Today’s expert hearing in Parliament has confirmed our reservations. The Islam Act in its present form does not achieve its goal. That is, it addresses only religious communities, but not the hundreds of organizations and Muslims per se. In order for the law’s provisions to include and be effective for all Muslims, the organizations would all have to be dissolved. And from what can be said as of now, that will not happen. The result will be that the organizations will continue as before and the law can simply not be applied to them,” says FPÖ spokesman Magister Harald Stefan.
“And even in the unlikely event — the probability is at nil — that the organizations are dissolved, even then the Islam Act would not be fulfilling its purpose, i.e., putting limits on radical Islam, thus enabling supervision and protecting all liberal Muslims loyal to the democratic rule of law, our constitution and human rights from Islamists,” admonishes Stefan. Furthermore, a number of special rights for Muslims would be introduced, and Stefan rejects that too.
“The wrong focus with halfhearted measures. Even if the idea of an Islam Act is good and justified, the execution has not succeeded. For the Islam Act, it can only be ‘Back to the beginning,’” says Stefan.
Secondly, from ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation):
Islam Act: A Hearing With Much Criticism
January 13, 2015
The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the National Assembly took up consideration of the planned new Islam Act. Immediately, for varying reasons, three experts demanded a “Back to the beginning.”
Parliamentary correspondence reports that, in the experts’ opinion, the draft is in no sense an improvement on the existing situation. The opposition, too, had doubts.
The political scientist Farid Hafez of the University of Salzburg argued for the Islam Act to be started anew from the ground up. In contrast to the prevailing law of 1912, which conveyed to the Muslim population in Austria that they were equal in every respect, and which created a feeling of belonging and trust, he was convinced that the new law would sow mistrust and bring in its wake a feeling of disdain.
Completely New version Recommended
There was also major criticism from Harald Fiegl, a former trade commissioner in Turkey. He expects no contribution to peaceful coexistence from the new Islam Act. He, too, recommended a completely new version.
Fiegl does not consider the preeminence the law awards the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGiÖ) to be justified. He made the criticism that the IGGiÖ does not reveal how many members it has, does not reveal it beliefs and does not impart a Western life-model in its schools and mosques.
Leeway for the Law
Gerhard Hesse, director of the Chancellery Constitutional Commission, pointed out that the draft in question is within the maneuvering room which constitutional law allows legislation.
It is possible for the Parliament to take an interest in individual religious communities and to consider historical traditions. From this perspective, it is also possible to contemplate the future categorical prohibition of foreign financing.
Assuring the Independence of Religious Communities
Katharina Pabel, director of the Institute for Administration and Administrative Law at the Johannes Kepler University of Linz, also expressed no constitutional doubts about the law.
It is necessary to be aware of the goal in regard to a prohibition of foreign financing, she asserted. It is a matter of assuring the self-sufficiency of the religious communities and making them independent of foreign sources.
Deviation from Religious Legislation
The religious philosopher Richard Potz, emeritus professor of legal philosophy, religious and cultural law at the University of Vienna, regarded it as a definite problem that the law deviates in several respects from the previous religious legislation, and that several parts of the law are too inexact. Austria can take pride in the existing Islam Act, and must be careful not to lose that prestige.
The economist Christian Zeitz, academic director of the Institute for Applied Political Economy, directed an urgent appeal to the legislators to rethink the law in its present form. He spoke of fuzzy provisions and expressed the concern that much of it would remain “dead law.”
Zeitz sees as a special problem the 460 mosque organizations which he believes are now in Austria. He does not believe that the provisions in the proposed law will make it possible to prohibit these organizations, which are outside the influence of the Islamic religious community.
The subject of the Islamic organizations was also central to the debate in the committee. To a question from the legislators as to how he would solve the problem, Zeitz proposed a revision of the law concerning organizations — a blanket prohibition of organizations whose purpose is the propagation of religious doctrine. Such matters should be regulated in the federal law on religious communities.
Finally, the press release issued by the Wiener Akademikerbund, also translated by JLH:
Wiener Akademikerbund Demands That the Last Chance for a Quality Revision of the Islam Act Be Taken
Vienna, January 15, 2015: In the session of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee for January 13th, the invited experts criticized the government draft of the Islam Act on various points, and were unanimous that it could not be passed in its present form. The critical analysis already contributed to the ministerial draft by the Wiener Akademikerbund [WAB — Vienna Federation of Academics] had thus been confirmed in the expert hearing.
Islam experts and active members of the WAB, Mag, Christian Zeitz and Dr. Harald Fiegl, made the following critical points about the draft:
1. Insufficient consideration of the incompatibilities of Islamic legal concepts (sharia) with Austrian laws, as well as failure to complete the legislative dissolution of so-called mosque organizations; 2. The illegal proliferation of more than 460 mosque organization, in which the complete panorama of religious activities is played out, from Friday prayers with sermons (mostly in a foreign language) to teaching of the Koran in the most diverse editorial variants; 3. Next to nothing is known about their interpretation of religious faith, the specific kinds of worship, their political views and international contacts; 4. But one thing is certain — that many of them receive substantial financial support from dubious foreign sources.
As noted by Dr. Josef Ostermayer, Chancellery minister responsible for constitutional and religious affairs, the religious society IGGiÖ (Islamic Religious Community in Austria) is “only an umbrella organization, which does not itself administer any mosques, has voters who function through electors (note: apparently no members) and has not made the basics of its faith public.”
The criticism by the Akademikerbund is that the Islam Act does not address the specific problems which arise from the inner structure of “real” Islam. Also that the governmental version of the law cannot produce the necessary balance between the rights and responsibilities of the Islamic communities for their actions. And the right of the non-Muslim population to information as well as protection and preservation of their own cultural tradition is accommodated just as little as the justified claim of integration-ready Muslims on the state to clarify for them the elements of their doctrine which cannot in the future be accepted as a part of Austrian society and legal order — such as right of revenge, physical punishment, inequality of women, polygamy and discrimination against “infidels.”
Demands of the Akademikerbund
The Wiener Akademikerbund therefore demands a correction of the law project with the goal of stemming the proliferating tide of mosques, of assuring the responsibility of Islamic religious societies for the beliefs they represent and propagate, of preventing the radical influence on the Islamic scene in Austria by foreign financing, and with all these things, of permanently preserving religious peace in Austria. To be sure, all this is contained in the concept of the Islam Act, but the Act does not as yet have sufficiently defined enforcement powers, nor an effective mechanism for implementation. Without these two elements, the Islam Act would be dead law and best used in the interim as a pacifying medium for the increasingly perturbed public. That is the opinion of the Akademikerbund.
“The implementation of a just Islam Act furthering religious coexistence,” say Christian Zeitz and Harald Fiegl, “must not fall victim to a shoot-from-the-hip legal project, oriented toward prestige and political profiling.”
The next meeting of the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee is set for February 12th. “Back to the beginning” will have to be the answer until then, says the Akademikerbund, and places its Islam expertise at the committee’s disposal.
Afterword by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff
While the proceedings in committee were cause for optimism, no one in the government showed the slightest interest in amending an obviously broken law. The ruling ÖVP wanted its young minister of integration to shine, and thus pushed for the law to be passed as soon as legally possible. The ruling SPÖ consider their job done; mind you, not well done, but done.
Today was the big day. Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee did not heed the advice of the Wiener Akademikerbund. WAB suffered a huge defeat today in Parliament: the Islam Law was passed in committee.
The ruling class — that is, Socialists and “conservatives” — mocked the opposition parties, calling them populists for presenting sound arguments. One prominent socialist MP told one FPÖ MP to convert to Islam because the FPÖ MP asked the procedure for entering and leaving Islam.
We anticipate that there will be a vigorous debate in the plenary session with SPÖ and ÖVP MPs doing what there are told: vote a broken and potentially dangerous law into effect.
Welcome to the state-sponsored Islamization of Austria. God help us all.