A group of young activists gathered in Vienna on Monday to protest against a new regulation banning public servants, including teachers, from wearing headscarves. Outside the University of Vienna, the protesters chanted slogans against the move and called for equality and freedom of religion for all.
The headscarf ban on public servants was drafted by Austrian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration Sebastian Kurz. Kurz said last week he wanted to ban public servants from wearing the headscarf. Muslims as well as socialist and liberal institutions have been protesting against the ban since then.
Muslimische Jugend Osterreich (Muslim Youth of Austria) spokesperson Canan Yasar slammed the policy based on "women's appearances". Addressing the crowd during the protest, Yasar rejected claims women wearing headscarves at work would make negative impressions. She called it a "dismissive" attitude of Austria. "It is definitely unacceptable," Sozialistische Jugend Osterreich (Socialist Youth of Austria) Fiona Herzog said. She pointed out the ban involved only Muslims and that such a regulation would only serve political motives.
As Islamophobia has been on the rise in the country, the leader of Austria's Freedom Party (FPÖ), Heinz-Christian Strache described Islam as "misogynistic" and "anti-liberal" in the far-right party's new Year gathering in the city of Salzburg while stressing that Austria has been under threat of Islamization, as reported by the Local Austria.
Austria's Freedom Party (FPOe) is the third-strongest force in parliament, but the far-right movement has been topping voter surveys conducted in 2015 with approval ratings of 35 per cent. The party's candidate, Norbert Hofer, suffered defeat in the 2016 presidential election, but the FPOe is hoping for early parliamentary elections this year to propel the rightists into government.
Austria was located on the so-called Balkan migrant route, which saw hundreds of thousands of people, many fleeing the Syrian war, trek up from Greece towards northern Europe last year.