12 Oct 2017

Politicians circle around Islamic kindergartens in Vienna

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz demanded that "problematic" Islamic kindergartens in Vienna be shut down based on a study that could have been manipulated by his ministry.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Politicians circle around Islamic kindergartens in Vienna - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Last summer a controversial study -- commissioned by Austria's integration and foreign affairs ministry and conducted by University of Vienna professor Ednan Aslan -- found a need for their stricter control of Islamic kindergartens in Vienna.

After the study was published, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz from the OVP party demanded that most Islamic kindergartens in Vienna be shut down because they were "problematic". The main concerns were that children wouldn't learn German because they were always speaking in their first language and that the kindergartens were teaching anti-integrationist tendencies. In some cases, there was also fear that children were being radicalized.

While Aslan admitted that there was cause for concern in some cases, he disagreed with Kurz's demand to shut down the kindergartens.

Amidst these discussions, Vienna's Falter weekly published documents suggesting that the study was manipulated by the foreign ministry. The changes affected the content of the study, so both Aslan and Kurz came under fire and the study is now being reviewed by the University of Vienna.

The university's analysis is expected to be published in October so the mood has calmed in Austria, but some new details have emerged.

A business consultant revealed that he was commissioned to do some of the research for the study. While outsourcing some tasks is not unusual, the fact that it wasn't delegated to a scientist or researcher is. What's more, the consultant wasn't mentioned or credited anywhere in the study.

Meanwhile, the Kurier newspaper which first broke the story criticised Aslan and accused him of negative bias.

These latest revelations are another layer in the already murky and dubious story. The university's analysis will hopefully clear things up -- and it can't come soon enough.

Details from the story:

  • The City of Vienna initially commissioned a study into its Islamic kindergartens but struggled to finance it, so the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs provided funding
  • The study's author was Ednan Aslan, an Austrian-Turkish professor of Islamic religious education a the University of Vienna
  • Controversy around the study arose when Sebastian Kurz released parts of his unpublished study to some Austrian newspapers
  • At the beginning of the summer, details about the ministry's changes to the study came to light, sparking serious public discussion
  • The author is yet to comment on parts of the research being outsourced, while the ministry has said they had no knowledge of it
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