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Austria marks centenary law on Islam

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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.