"Austrian minister sparks controversy over teachers wearing headscarves"
(AFP, March 09, 2005)
Austria’s education ministry said Wednesday that public school teachers would not be banned from wearing the traditional Islamic headscarf despite controversial comments by the country’s new interior minister.
Liese Prokop, speaking to the weekly Falter, said she found teachers wearing the headscarf in public schools shocking.
“I don’t know if a ban of the headscarf is legally possible, but I am in favor of it,” the new minister of the governing conservative party was quoted as saying Tuesday. “I find it shocking because it does not correspond to the values of our society and tolerance is going too far.”
Prokop also denounced forced marriages, honor killings and wife battery in Austria’s minority Muslim community.
Omar Al-Rawi, a Muslim community leader, said the statements amounted to “a slap in the face of Muslim women.”
On Wednesday, education ministry spokesman Ronald Zecha told AFP that there was no proposal to bar teachers from wearing the headgear in public schools.
“There is no problem in Austria, because we have a system of good cooperation and of reciprocal tolerance with the different religious communities,” Zecha said.
Austria established freedom of religion in 1912, he said.
The wearing of the Islamic headscarf has been the subject of heated debate across Europe. In France, it was banned in public schools after a protracted legal and political battle.