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Archive for the ‘Austria’ Category

According to a recent IMAS study, 59% of Austrians are ‘somewhat opposed’ to building minarets.  There’s a big gap between the public opinion and what is expressed.

Just over 20% of Austrians describe themselves as religious, compared to 30% 35 years ago.  The ethnic population differs clearly from the Muslim population.  54% of Austrians – slightly more men than women, older people more than younger – see Islam as a ‘threat to the West’.  The respondents have a growing sense that such views can’t be talked about openly.  This according to a large-scale study by the IMAS agency on the topic of ‘religion and freedom’, conducted for the Internationalen Instituts für Liberale Politik (International Institute for Liberal Policy) and obtained exclusive by Presse.

Only 4% would agree if a family member would marry a Muslims.  By 3% of respondents that was already the case, and in Vienna it was above average.

On the acceptance of minarets: 59% said they were ‘somewhat against’.  51% thought the building of mosques and wearing a headscarf should be banned altogether.

72% of Austrians (compared to 38% of Green party supporters) were critical of the lack of readiness to assimilate among Muslims in Austria.  “Austria is a Christian country and should remain such”: said 61% of the respondents.  42% also thought that “the less foreigners, the better”.  In particular, this view was held by supporters of the Freedom Party (76%), but also by 39% of SPÖ voters (Social Democrats) and 37% of ÖVP voters (People’s Party).

Only the Greens bucked the trend all across the board.  Just 14% of the Greens oppose building mosques, and just over 25% says that Austria should remain a Christian country.  On the other hand, almost half of the Green voters see economic and social benefits for Austria from immigration.  This opinion was shared by 12% of all respondents, 15% of SPÖ voters, 16% of ÖVP voters and 5% of FPÖ-BZÖ voters (Freedom Party – Alliance for the Future of Austria).

Austrians see increasing pressure on opinions regarding foreigner policy.  IMAS asked whether people in Austria can really express their opinion on political, historical and cultural issues without fear.  In 2007, 14% said it’s better to keep silent.  In Feb. 2010, 24% agreed with this view.  Another 20% said it depends on the issue.  IMAS researchers say there is major contradictions between the public and expressed opinion.

A large majority – 71% – think Islam is incompatible with Western notions of democracy, freedom and tolerance.  Erich Reiter of the Institute for Liberal Policy (and former section head in the department of defense), points out that also atheists see differences between Christianity and Islam.  In a Presse interview he says that from a liberal prospective Islam is seen as a threat to Austrian society, and that politicians should take this seriously and respond to it.

As for faith, 60% either believe in a Biblical God (25%) or in a ‘spiritual power over us’ (34%).  But Christianity is given only secondary importance in children’s upbringing, followed by ‘European spirit’.  The most important educational goal in Austria is to ‘think and act indepenently’.

Asked for a self-evaluation: 63% said they’re ‘people for whom freedom and independence matter a lot’, followed by ‘cosmpolitian’ and ‘orderly’.  An interesting point: 7% see themselves as upper-class and high-earners, 4% as right-liberals and 3% as people with ‘strong leftist’ leanings.

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Between 6,000 and 8,000 women in Austria have been forced to undergo genital mutilation, according to Social Democratic MP Petra Bayr.

Bayr, a member of the Austrian Platform against Female Genital Mutilation, said today: “Many parents believe they are doing their daughters a favour by forcing them to undergo it.”

She said the only way to change such thinking was to engage in awareness-raising and make it clear to parents that genital mutilation was neither called for by religion nor a pre-condition for finding a husband.

Rather, she added, genital mutilation was a violation of human rights that left its victims mentally and physically damaged for the rest of their lives.

Bayr added that her group was working with health personnel, migrant organisations and religious leaders to try to change the situation.

Such work, she claimed, had been bearing fruit. “The situation is better than before,” and there was more counselling available, she said.

Bayr said the Platform wanted 6 February – proclaimed “International Day of Zero Tolerance of Female Genital Mutilation” at the Inter African Committee conference seven years ago – to become a UN commemorative day to increase public awareness of the problem.

The Platform will also begin a Europe-wide campaign against genital mutilation with an event on 17 February at Palais Epstein in Vienna.

Greens’ women’s spokeswoman Judith Schwentner called for asylum for all prospective victims of genital mutilation, “a serious assault on the physical and sexual integrity of women and a serious violation of human rights.”

The Platform claims 155 million women around the world have been subject to genital mutilation, and Amnesty International says three million women a year, or 8,000 a day, are forced to undergo it.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the practice is most common in northern and western areas of Africa and is not restricted to Muslims.

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