Austria: Headscarfs for public employees debate

It's already been a big theme in Germany, France, Turkey and the Netherlands, and now the Austrian far right is asking: Should public employees be allowed to wear Muslim headscarves at work?


Two women have become the first schoolteachers in Vienna to wear headscarves while teaching.


One is also a local centre-left Social Democrat politician.


Teachers in other parts of the country already wear headscarves, and there is no law banning public employees from wearing such items as there is in some other European countries.  


But the two women have now found themselves featured on the front page of the Austrian daily Oesterreich and have drawn criticism from the resurgent far right, which won a combined one-third of the vote in a parliamentary election several weeks ago.


"Headscarves are a symbol of Islamism and female oppression. They have no place in Austria," says Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the far-right Freedom Party, which has now become Austria's third most powerful.


The director of the state schools in that part of Vienna fully supports the women — one-third of the school children come from Turkish families so the women "break down linguistic and cultural barriers", she says.


But some feel a division between religion and state is more important.


Source: FaithWorld (English)

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