No parallel societies: Austria wants headscarf ban in kindergartens and primary schools

No parallel societies: Austria wants headscarf ban in kindergartens and primary schools
The Austrian government wants to forbid girls in kindergartens and primary schools to wear headscarves. The ban would prevent discrimination and the development of “parallel societies," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says.

"The veiling of small children is something that definitely has no place in our country," Kurz said in Vienna on Wednesday. 

The move will be part of the so-called "Child Protection Act" which – alongside other measures – is aimed at encouraging people to assimilate into Austrian culture. The chancellor stressed that it is meant to give children equal opportunities and curb the emergence of “parallel societies” in the country.

Those words were echoed by Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, who reiterated that it is important to prevent the development of political Islam and to let children grow up free.

Kurz also argued that there is no religious rule ordering children to wear Islamic head coverings. In many Islamic cultures, doing so is not a requirement for girls until they reach sexual maturity.

The draft is to be prepared by the beginning of summer holidays, according to Education Minister Heinz Fassmann. Middle graders are exempted from the plan as implementing it there would be too “sensitive.”

While the number of children in the kindergartens and primary schools affected by the bill is not clear, the move would be a "symbolic" act, according to Fassmann.

At the same time, the chancellor stressed that the number of minors wearing headscarves is increasing. "What I can tell you is that it is a growing phenomenon. A few decades ago we did not have this in Austria and now it occurs primarily in Islamic kindergartens but also here and there in public establishments of Vienna and other cities," Kurz said.

Austria implemented a controversial ban on the wearing of Islamic face veils in public places in October. The law did not cover headscarves, however. Since then, around 50 were reported as disobeying the new law. Those found in breach of the ‘Anti-Face-Veiling Act’ are to pay fines of €150.