The headscarf as a symbol of non-integration?: integration of Muslims in Austria
A debate is raging in Europe about what kind of policies states should adopt regarding the integration of Muslims. On one hand, policies are pursued which ask Muslims to “assimilate” and give up features of their (religious) traditions, on the other hand policies are promoted which encourage minorities to celebrate their “difference”. In Austria, the debate heated up again at the occasion of the widely debated study titled “Perspectives and Challenges Regarding the Integration of Muslims in Austria” in May 2006. This paper investigates the headscarf as a religious symbol in a Western state. Although there has not been a case before the Austrian courts on religious neutrality of public schools with regard to the limits of religious freedom evident in the headscarf cases all over Europe, the debate on religious practices in the public realm has also reached Austria, which makes a glance at the debate in Germany even more interesting. In Germany, a vibrant debate has been going on for years. Only recently, on the 7th of July 2006, a decision by the VG Stuttgart turned the debate into a different direction. To give an overview, the main strands of the German discussion will be outlined. This debate will be described against the background of the recent decisions of the ECtHR, which have set the guiding posts of the debate.
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