Austria proposes hijab ban for girls under 10

Austria proposes hijab ban for girls under 10 'to protect culture from Islamic influences'
2 min read
05 April, 2018
Austria's Education Minister conceded the plan to ban the hijab in kindergarten and primary schools was "symbolic".
The ban would apply to girls in kindergarten and primary school [Getty]
Austria's right-wing government on Wednesday revealed plans to ban Muslim girls under 10 from wearing the hijab.

It said prohibiting the headscarf from being worn in kindergarten and primary school aims to combat what it sees as a threat to Austrian mainstream culture from some Muslims.

"Our goal is to confront any development of parallel societies in Austria," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told ORF radio.

"Girls wearing a headscarf in kindergarten or primary school is of course part of that."

If it became law, the ban would apply to girls of up to around the age of 10 years. However many Muslims believe Islam requires girls to wear a headscarf from puberty and headscarves are rarely worn at a younger age. 

Speaking at a news conference alongside Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of coalition-partner FPO, Kurz said: "A few decades ago we did not have this in Austria and now it occurs primarily in Islamic kindergartens but also here and there in public establishments of Vienna and other cities." However he failed to produce evidence of the "growing phenomenon" in schools.

Education Minister Heinz Fassmann conceded that the law would be a "symbolic" act, regardless of how many children were actually affected.

The previous coalition of Social Democrats and Kurz's conservatives, passed a law banning face coverings including Muslim burqas in public spaces, but women and girls are free to wear regular hijab.

Carla Amina Baghajati, spokeswoman for the Islamic Religious Community in Austria, called the debate over the headscarf "a marginal issue", which had been given disproportionate attention. 

Any schools affected by the issue should be engaged in "dialogue", she told AFP.