Islam

   The position of Islam in the Second Austrian Republic is closely tied to the history of the Habsburg monarchy’s relations with the Muslim Ottoman Empire. From the 15th to the beginning of the 18th centuries, the two polities contested the control of central and southeastern Europe from Vienna down the Danube River to Belgrade.
   It was only after 1683, when a final Ottoman siege was broken by an international coalition of Christian forces, that Ottoman sultans became Habsburg partners in international power politics and accommodation to Islam in Austria began. Though worship at home or in other informal settings remained the norm for Muslim residents and visitors to Vienna for decades, Joseph II’s Edict of Toleration (1781) allowed Muslims to exercise their faith throughout the Habsburg lands.
   As a way of making both their military and diplomatic contacts with the Ottoman Empire more effective, Habsburg governments cultivated serious academic study of their one-time antagonists. Under the leadership of such scholars and writers as Joseph von HammerPurgstall (1774–1856), Vienna became one of Europe’s main centers for oriental scholarship in the 19th century.
   Further institutional and attitudinal adjustments to Islam in Austria followed the Habsburg occupation of Bosnia in 1878 and the outright annexation of the province, which had around 300,000 Muslim residents by 1908. Bosnian Muslims become one of the elite forces in the Dual Monarchy’s army. Bosnians served Emperor Franz Joseph as bodyguards; imams conducted the troops’ devotions. Plans for a large mosque in Vienna were in place by 1916 but fell by the wayside in the economic chaos of World War I and its aftermath. A law of 1912 that certified Islam as an official religious community carried over from the Habsburg Empire to the Second Republic, in which the number of Muslims grew exponentially after 1960. Bosnians accounted for a new wave of immigration, followed by Turks in search of economic opportunities. Muslims from a variety of Middle Eastern states have settled in Vienna as well. Altogether, Muslims were roughly 10–15 percent of the city population by 2000. The 1912 law was expanded in 1979 and again in 1988, when all schools of Islamic religious law were declared operative in the community. Officially charged with representing interests and affairs of Muslims in Austria before the government, the Islamic Religious Community in Austria brings together the many different Islamic communities. It has customarily supported integrationist policies. The first mosque on Austrian soil opened in 1979. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia financed the exterior structure; money for the building interior came from other Muslim governments.
   Islamic and non-Islamic relations in Austria have sometimes been strained and even hostile, particularly as some local Muslims have publicly endorsed worldwide terrorism. Nor have intra-Muslim relations been wholly cordial. A Turkish Association, founded in 1990 and directly supervised by the Office of Religious Affairs of the Turkish State, has contributed to intra-Muslim tension. Control over religious education has often been contentious, especially after 1983, when Austrian schools started to provide such instruction to Muslim students.
   See also Coffeehouse; Religion.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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