Pax Christi backs ‘more mosques’ appeal

A Catholic peace movement has come out in support of the construction of further mosques with minarets in Austria.Pax Christi Österreich, the Austrian department of the international organisation, said today (Fri): “It is essential to provide worthy venues for Muslims so they can exercise their religion.”The organisation added it was of the opinion that a mosque featuring a minaret would give Muslims “a home” and was of the same importance as churches to Christians and synagogues to the Jewish community.Pax Christi Österreich further said: “Let’s take the chance of a western concept of democracy connected with religious freedom.”The announcements come as all of Austria’s political parties and religious representatives engage in a debate on whether the country needs more mosques.Syrian-born Anas Schakfeh, head of the Austrian Islamic Denomination (IGGiÖ), caused outcry among right-wing politicians by making another appeal for “distinctive” mosques with minarets in all of Austria’s nine provincial capitals.Around 500,000 of the 8.5 million people living in Austria are Muslims. There are hundreds of houses of prayers and Islamic community centres, but just three mosques with minarets – in Vienna, Bad Vöslau in Lower Austria and Telfs in Tyrol – in the country.Many Muslims and people of other denominations have welcomed Schakfeh’s idea, but at the same time also criticised him for expressing it just weeks before two crucial elections.The right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) is expected to improve in the provincial votes of Styria on 26 September and Vienna on 10 October after having poor shows five years ago. Political analysts have said it was almost certain the party’s campaign will benefit from the fresh controversy.Meanwhile, Vienna-based researchers Karmasin found that a majority of 52 per cent of Austrians opposed calls for further mosques with minarets. Only 35 per cent supported the idea, the institute – which interviewed around 500 Austrians – said.