A groundbreaking new law regulating the integration of immigrants has gone into effect in Austria. The so-called Integration Law — which bans full-face Muslim veils in public spaces and prohibits Islamic radicals from distributing the Koran — establishes clear rules and responsibilities for recognized asylum seekers and refugees who are granted legal residence in the country.
Austrian officials say the main goal of the law is to promote respect for Austrian values, customs and culture; Muslims claim that the measure unfairly targets them and will promote “Islamophobia.”
As of October 1, anyone covering his or her face in public with a burka, niqab or mask is subject to a fine of €150 ($175). The law, which follows similar bans in Belgium, France and the Netherlands, requires the face to be completely visible in all public spaces, including bus, rail, air and sea transport. Those who refuse to comply are subject to arrest.
The new law also requires immigrants from non-EU countries to sign an “integration contract” which obligates them to learn written and spoken German and to enroll in courses about the “basic values of Austria’s legal and social order.” Immigrants are also required to “acquire knowledge of the democratic order and the basic principles derived from it.”
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