Austrian social democrats divided over headscarf ban

Barbara Novak, the new party manager of the Viennese branch of Austria's Social Democratic Party (SPÖ), has caused considerable inner-party upheaval by advocating for a headscarf ban in schools.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Austrian social democrats divided over headscarf ban - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

So far, the social democrats of Austria had pussyfooted around the issue, and Novak's statement sparked much debate.

Politically speaking, the headscarf is one of the country's hottest buttons. Some argue that it is sign of failed integration, while many others posit that prohibition offers no assistance whatsoever to women who are forced to wear head coverings.

Above all, the discussion shows the deep divides in Austria's Social Democratic Party. Despite all its attempts at offering a viable alternative to the anti-migrant ruling coalition, the SPÖ does not have a solid plan when it comes to integration.

religion, education, politics

Details from the story:

  • In a proposal of the SPÖ's "Women's Initiative", which was adopted at the State Party Congress in April 2017, it says: "We do not want girls wearing headscarves in kindergarten and elementary school -- a rapid intervention is needed!"
  • The word "headscarf ban" or "ban" is not found in the document. Instead, the SPÖ's official guidelines on the issue recommend "raising awareness by rethinking the issue".
  • Jürgen Czernohorszky, National Councilor for Education, has not expressed support for a headscarf ban.
  • A 2004 decree from the Ministry of Education decree states that Muslim girls wearing headscarves for religious reasons are protected by law.
  • A prohibition of headscarves in classrooms would therefore be unlawful.
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