Provincial parliament demands ban on mosque construction

Vienna, Austria - The provincial parliament in the southern Austrian province Carinthia called on its provincial government to prepare legislation banning the construction of mosques or minarets. The province's governor, the populist former leader of the rightist Freedom Party, Joerg Haider, had repeatedly called for anti- Muslim measures along those lines.

The proposal was adopted with the votes of the conservative People's Party, Freedom Party, and the support of the Alliance for Austria's Future, an equally rightist breakaway party from the Freedom Party, founded by Haider.

Alliance floor leader Kurt Scheuch said his party wanted to prevent the creeping Islamization by radical forces.

"We prefer churchbells to the muezzin's chants," he said.

While the conservatives stressed that it was not their intention to prevent Muslims from practicing their religion, they argued that a mosque could not be compared with a Christian church, but was rather an "institution of a cultural community."

Carinthia's Social Democrats and Greens, who had voted against the measure, slammed the proposal as a move to "prevent integration (and) hinder religious freedom" and called it an "open attack on democracy and the rule of law."

The Social Democrats pointed out that currently there were no plans for for building mosques in the province, unmasking the proposal as an attempt to "attract the right-wing vote," Social Democrat floor leader Peter Kaiser said.