Islam growing significantly in Austria
Austria’s government along with the country’s Muslim community celebrated the European nation’s 100-year-old Law on Islam.
The law, granted in 1912 in Article 1, recognized Islam “as a religious community” and gave it “the same legal protection as is granted to other legally recognized religious communities”. The law was created under the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph following Austria’s annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Austria guarantees Muslims the same rights as all religious communities as well as religious education in state schools, administration of internal affairs and public worship.
In a ceremony held in Vienna’s town hall, Rathaus, Austrian President Heinz Fischer called for peaceful and respectful relations with the Muslim community.
Senior government officials attended a mosque ceremony to mark the centenary with Austrian Muslims.
“Austria is a model in Europe in dealing with Islam, but the Austrian Muslims are also a European model,” Omar al-Rawi, Vienna City councilor, told BBC on July 3. Rawi also added that the law allows Muslims to integrate in Austria and feel accepted.
“Islam was officially recognized by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in 1912, shortly after Bosnia and Herzegovina had been incorporated into the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Austria is very proud of its early recognition of its Muslim citizens,” President Fischer said in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.
Austria is home to half a million Muslims about six percent of the country’s population. Islam is the second largest religious group after Roman Catholicism in the capital.
According to one reported estimate, about 60,000 children attend Muslim education classes in Austrian state schools.
Broad minded Muslim – Catholic association of preceding centuries:
The Muslim-Catholic association can be traced as far back as 11th century that began in the rivalry of crusades and ended in the friendship of Sulatan Salahudeen Ayubi and Richard the Lion heart of England.
But the association between these two great religions of the yore continued, as the Turkish Caliph Mehmed II after taking Constantinople amalgamated the old Byzantine administration into the Ottoman state.
He first introduced the word Politics into Arabic “Siyasah” from a book he published and claimed to be the collection of Politics doctrines of the Byzantine Caesars before him. He gathered Italian artists, humanists and Greek scholars at his court, allowed the Byzantine Church to continue functioning, ordered the patriarch to translate Christian doctrine into Turkish, and called Gentile Bellini from Venice to paint his portrait.
Mehmed invited Muslim scientists and artists to his court in Constantinople, started a University, built mosques (for example, the Fatih Mosque), waterways, and Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace.
Mehmed II allowed his subjects a considerable degree of religious freedom, provided they were obedient to his rule. After his conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1463 he issued a firman to the Bosnian Franciscans, granting them freedom to move freely within the Empire, offer worship in their churches and monasteries, and to practice their religion free from official and unofficial persecution, insult or disturbance.
His standing army was recruited from the Devshirme, a group that took first-born Christian subjects at a young age that were destined for the sultans court. The less able, but physically strong were put into the army or the sultan’s personal guard, the Janissaries.
Within Constantinople, Mehmed established a millet or an autonomous religious community, and appointed the former Patriarch as religious governor of the city. His authority extended only to the Orthodox Christians within the city, and this excluded the Genoese and Venetian settlements in the suburbs, and excluded Muslim and Jewish settlers entirely.
This method allowed for an indirect rule of the Christian Byzantines and allowed the occupants to feel relative autonomy, providing the basis for future Islamic and Christian Governments in being broad minded to their subjects belonging to the other religion, who were ‘People of the Scriptures’.
Muslim-Christian and European-Islamic relationship under Caliph Suleiman
Again this Christian – Muslim association continued to thrive under another Turkish Caliph Suleiman.
While Sultan Suleiman was known as “the Magnificent” in the West, he was always Kanuni Suleiman or “The Lawgiver” to his own Ottoman subjects. As the historian Lord Kinross notes, “Not only was he a great military campaigner, a man of the sword, as his father and great-grandfather had been before him. He differed from them in the extent to which he was also a man of the pen. He was a great legislator, standing out in the eyes of his people as a high-minded sovereign and a magnanimous exponent of justice”.
Suleiman gave particular attention to the plight of the rayas, Christian subjects who worked the land of the Sipahis. His Kanune Raya, or “Code of the Rayas”, reformed the law governing levies and taxes to be paid by the rayas, raising their status above serfdom to the extent that Christian serfs would migrate to Turkish territories to benefit from the reforms.
The Sultan also played a role in protecting the Jewish subjects of his empire for centuries to come. In late 1553 or 1554, on the suggestion of his favorite doctor and dentist, the Spanish Jew Moses Hamon, the Sultan issued a firman formally denouncing blood libels against the Jews.
And this heritage of Muslim – Christian association is lasting to this day, as just rulers with knowledge of the past relationships are always have tended to be caring and promoting such great and wonderful relationships between the ‘people of the scriptures’.
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