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04. 01. 10. - 15:00

Styrian VP leader against minarets

By William Green

Styrian Peoples Party (VP) leader Hermann Schtzenhfer has spoken out against building minarets in Austria.

He told ORF Styria yesterday (Tues): "It should not reach the point at which we have to take down crosses and build minarets."

But Schtzenhfer said he was against a national referendum on the issue of minarets like one recently held in Switzerland since politicians should not be pressured by the results of such votes.

Schtzenhfer also called for an end to debate about crosses in school classrooms. "At a time of debate about whether there should be minarets, I say that we need a Europe of values rather than a value-less Europe," he said.

Asked if he was trying to steal the Freedom Partys (FP) thunder on the issue of minarets in the run-up to the provincial election in autumn 2010, he replied: "I do not squint right and left."

Recent polls have shown the Styrian VP have a good chance of beating the Social Democrats (SP) and SP Governor Franz Voves in the election and reclaiming the governorship next autumn a development that would make Schtzenhfer the next governor.

The issue of minarets has made headlines in Austria since the Swiss referendum last month, in which 57 per cent supported banning them.

Vienna Archbishop Christoph Cardinal Schnborn publicly opposed a ban on minarets in Austria earlier this month while Vorarlberg pastors also condemned the Swiss vote in an open letter to Muslims in their communities.

Leaders of the Peoples Party (VP), the Social Democrats (SP) and the Greens also criticised the result of the Swiss referendum.

But Austrias two right-wing parties the Freedom Party (FP) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZ) - praised the result, calling Switzerland a "role model for other European countries".

Austrian Islamic Community (IGGi) President Anas Schakfeh said he opposed special laws regulating the construction of minarets.

There are three minarets in Austria: in Vienna, Bad Vslau in Lower Austria and Telfs, Vorarlberg. The provinces of Carinthia and Vorarlberg have passed laws which effectively ensure that no more minarets can be erected.

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