Islam in Austria

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Islam in Europe
by percentage of country population[1]
North Macedonia
  < 1%

Islam in Austria is the largest minority religion in the country, practiced by 8% of the total population in 2016 according to the Austrian Academy of Sciences.[2] The majority of Muslims in Austria belong to the Sunni denomination.[3] Most Muslims came to Austria during the 1960s as migrant workers from Turkey and Yugoslavia. There are also communities of Arab and Afghan origin.


Muslim population in Austria by the year:
1971 22,267—    
1981 76,939+245.5%
1991 158,776+106.4%
2001 338,988+113.5%
2012 573,876+69.3%
2016 700,000+22.0%
1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 data[4]
2012 data,[5] 2016 estimated data[2]

Historian Smail Balić states that the first evidence of Muslims in Austria dates back to nomadic tribes from Asia that entered the region in 895. Following the Ottoman conquest of the Habsburg Empire in the late 15th century, more Muslims moved into the territory that makes up modern-day Austria. Muslims were expelled after the Habsburg Empire took control of the region once again in the late 17th century but a few were allowed to remain after the signing of the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718.[6] The Recognition Act in 1874 gave non-Christian communities including Muslims legal framework to be recognized as Cultusgemeinden (faith communities).[7] The largest number of Muslims came under Austrian control after the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878.[6] Austria regulated the religious freedoms of the Muslim community with the so-called Islamgesetz (Islam Law) in 1912.[8]

After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I, only a few Muslims remained in the border of the new First Austrian Republic. A private association called the Islamischer Kulturbund was set up by Baron Omar Rolf von Ehrenfels to organize remaining Muslims in the country. However, the organization was promptly dissolved following the Anschluss.[6] Ehrenfels, being a critic of the Nazi Party, fled Austria.[9] In 1943, another Muslim association was founded under Salih Hadžialić with funding from the government.

Substantive Muslim immigration to Austria began in the 1960s when Gastarbeiter from Yugoslavia and Turkey moved to the country.[9] The Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (Community of Muslim believers in Austria) was established by provisions of the Islamgesetz in 1979.[8] Many Muslim refugees of the Yugoslav Wars also moved to Austria during the 1990s.[9]

In 2013, Austria granted the status of a recognized religious community to Alevism.[10]

In February, 2015, a new Islamgesetz was passed by the Austrian parliament, illegalizing foreign funding of mosques and paying salaries of imams. Contrary to reports in the media, the law does not regulate the version of the Koran that may be used in Austria, but central tenets of the religion must be presented to the authorities in German.[11][12] It also gives Muslims additional rights, such as the rights to halal food and pastoral care in the military. The minister for Integration, Sebastian Kurz, said the changes were intended to "clearly combat" the influence of Islamic extremism in Austria.[11] The leader of Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, called the law "positive and productive (befruchtend) for the discussion in Germany".[13]

In October 2017, the Austrian government passed a law named the "Prohibition on the Covering of the Face."[14] The law was introduced by the center-left Chancellor Christian Kern.[15] Anyone wearing clothes that obscure their face in public is liable to a fine of €150 and must remove the offending garment “on the spot” if ordered by police.[16] Many activists and experts labeled the law Islamophobic arguing that it discriminated against Muslim women who wore religious face veils.[17] Among the opponents of the law were President Alexander Van der Bellen,[18] Georgetown University senior research fellow Farid Hafez,[14] and Austrian Islamic Religious Authority spokeswoman Carla Amina Baghajati.[19] Face veils in Austria are rare, with about 100-150 Muslim women wearing some type of face covering.[14] Prior to the passing of the ban, thousands of people protested in Vienna in January 2017 to express opposition to the law.[20] However, in European countries, that have introduced similar laws, the bans were upheld by the European court of human rights (ECHR).[21][22]

In 2018, chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced that Austria would close seven mosques and deport 40 imams paid by Turkey through the Diyanet organisation as measures to thwart political Islam. In the announcement parallel societies, islamism and radicalisation were stated to have no place in Austrian society.[23][24]

In October 2018, Austria banned headscarves for children in Kindergarten. The ban was motivated by protecting children from family pressure to wear the headscarf.[25] According to an Austrian teacher's union, a ban for pupils aged up to 14 years should be considered as that is the religious legal age (German: religionsmündig).[25]

In March 2019, cabinet announced that it aims to create a new institution, which should from 2020 monitor and document activities regarding political Islam in the country.[26] Citing studies which show that a significant number of Austrian Muslims hold anti-western and antisemitic views,[27][28] Kurz said that it would be necessary to monitor mosques, clubs, ideology and social media contributions in context with fundamental Islam in order to protect the liberal, democratic and secular society. The organisation should get a similar role on islamic extremism as the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW) has on right wing extremism, according to the cabinet. Leading figures form the DÖW have principally welcomed the government's plan and confirmed that there is a need to take a closer look at the dangers of political Islam.[29]

Population by year[edit]

Year Muslim population Total population % of total population
1971 22,267[30] 7,500,000 0.30%
1981 76,939[30] 7,569,000 1.02%
1991 158,776[30] 7,755,000 2.05%
2001 338,988[30] 8,042,000 4.22%
2012 573,876[5] 8,464,000 6.78%
2016 (est) 700,000[2] 8,773,000 7.98%


The last census in Austria that collected data on religion was in 2001. That census found that there were 338,988 Muslims in the country, making up 4.2% of the population. Statistics Austria estimated in 2009 that 515,914 Muslims lived in Austria.[31] Work by Ednan Aslan and Erol Yıldız that used data from the 2009 Statistics Austria report estimated that 573,876 Muslims lived in Austria in 2012, making up 6.8% of the population.[32]

The majority of Muslims in Austria are Austrian citizens. The most common foreign citizenships among Muslims in Austria are Turkish (21.2%), Bosnian (10.1%), Kosovar (6.7%), Montenegrin (6.7%), and Serbian (6.7%).[33]

Almost 216,345 Austrian Muslims (38%) live in the capital, Vienna. Roughly 30% of Muslims live in northern state outside of Vienna and an equal number (30%) live in the southern states of Austria.[34]


The majority of Austrian Muslims have a Turkish or Balkan background.[35]

Nationality Population Year
Turks 500,000+ [36]
Bosniaks 128,047 [37]
Afghans 45,720 [38]
Kurds 26,770 [citation needed]
Chechens 25,000 [39]
Iranians 12,452 [citation needed]
Arabs 12,100 [citation needed]
Pakistanis 8,490 [citation needed]


An August 2017 survey by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation found that among Austrian Muslims, 64% were Sunni and 4% were Shia.[40] Medien-Servicestelle Neue Österreicher estimated in 2010 that 10-20% of Austrian Muslims were Alevi.[33]


Almost 88% of Austrian Muslims feel closely connected with Austria and more than 62% of Muslims have routine leisure time contact with people of other religions, according to the Bertelsmann survey from August 2017.[35] The same survey was also implemented in Germany and several right-wing German newspapers, including Die Welt,[41] Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,[42] Wirtschaftswoche[43] have called the results concerning "close connection" superficial and too optimistic, because the study does not contain any information as to whether participants' values are compatible with western values

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose political style gets described as increasingly authoritarian and undemocratic, and his islamic-conservative AKP Party gain hugh election successes with Turkish citizens in Austria with up to 80 percent of votes.[44] Critics see this as a clear sign of failed integration. In 2016 Sebastian Kurz, then foreign minister, from the ÖVP and some FPÖ members have urged participants of a pro-Erdoğan demonstration to leave Austria.[45]

Religiosity and Fundamentalism[edit]

In an August 2017 survey by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation, 42% of Austrian Muslims said they were "highly religious" and 52% were "moderately religious."[35]

Austrian Muslims show high fundamental religious values and hostility against other groups according to a study that was published by WZB Berlin Social Science Center in 2013.[27] Different approval rates also persisted after factors such as education, income, marital status, age and gender were taken into account, the study concluded that the reason is to some extent the religion.[27]

Statement [27] Percentage of people who agree with the statement
Muslims Christians
Muslims (Christians) should return to the roots of Islam (Christianity). 65% 27%
There is only one interpretation of the Koran (the Bible) and all Muslims (Christians) must adhere to it. 79% 18%
The rules of the Koran (the Bible) are more important to me than the laws of Austria. 73% 13%
Percentage of people who agree with all three statements. 55% 4%
I do not want to have homosexuals as friends. 69% 15%
You can not trust Jews. 63% 11%
Western countries want to destroy Islam. (Muslims want to destroy Western culture.) 66% 25%
Percentage of people who agree with all three statements. 43% 3%

2020 raid on Islamists[edit]

On 9 November 2020, Austrian authorities undertook police action against Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood networks in the country and 60 locations were searched. During the razzia 70 people were apprehended on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organization, money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities.[46]


A Tag der offenen Moschee (Open Mosque Day) was first organized in October 2013 with the aim of building interfaith connections between Austrian Muslims and non-Muslims. The event has continued every year since.[47]

Education and income[edit]

According to the MIPEX Index, access barriers to the labor market for immigrants are relatively low but unemployment is significantly more common among Muslims than among the average population at large. Approximately 40% Muslims born in Austria leave school before age 17.[35]

Religious infrastructure[edit]

Mosque and Islamic centre in Vienna.

There are 205 registered mosques in Austria with hundreds more unregistered prayer rooms. There are four mosques in the country that were purpose-built with minarets.[34]

Despite a large amount of Balkan Muslims in the country, most Muslim organizations in Austria are dominated by Turks.[48] The largest Muslim organization in the country is the Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich (Community of Muslim believers in Austria). The Glaubensgemeinschaft has two constituent members, the Austrian Turkish Islamic Union and the Islamic Federation.[49] Muslim Youth Austria is part of the Bundesjugendvertretung (National Youth Representation) mainly focuses on interfaith dialogue with Catholics, Jews, Buddhists and other religious groups in the country. Muslim Youth Austria also campaigns against xenophobia and racism.[48] Alevis in Austria have set up community groups such as the Islamische Alevitische Glaubensgemeinschaft (Muslim Alevi Community in Austria) and the Föderation der Aleviten Gemeinden in Österreich (Federation of Alevi Communities in Austria).[7]


A Mosque in Telfs.

According to the Rassismus Report 2014, the two most impactful sources of anti-Muslim sentiment in Austria are the tabloid, Neue Kronenzeitung, and the Freedom Party of Austria.[50]

In a 2017 Chatham House survey 65 percent of Austrians supported the statement: "All further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped", while 18 percent disagreed.[51] In a 2018 poll by Der Standard 45 percent answered that they would tolerate a street scene that is dominated by women wearing headscarves, 42 percent would not tolerate it.[52]


In April 2017, President Alexander Van der Bellen called for all women in Austria to wear headscarves in solidarity with Muslims and to fight what he referred to as "rampant Islamophobia" in the country.[53]

Notable Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Religious Composition by Country, 2010-2050". Pew Research Center. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ Islam in Österreich Archived 2014-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Österreichischer Integrationsfonds: PDF Archived 2014-03-04 at the Wayback Machine (abgerufen am 17. Dezember 2011)
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ a b c Çakır & Schmidinger 2014, p. 45
  7. ^ a b Öktem 2015, p. 47
  8. ^ a b Öktem 2015, p. 46
  9. ^ a b c Çakır & Schmidinger 2014, p. 46
  10. ^ "Anerkennung der Anhänger der Islamischen Alevitischen Glaubensgemeinschaft als Religionsgesellschaft" (in German). Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria. 2013-05-22. Retrieved 2013-05-24.
  11. ^ a b Elahe Izadi (February 26, 2015), "Austria is taking controversial steps to tighten a 100-year-old 'Law on Islam'", The Washington Post
  12. ^ "Islamgesetz 2015" (in German). Legal Information System of the Republic of Austria. 2016-06-08. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
  13. ^ "Wie Österreichs Islamgesetz die deutsche Debatte befruchtet", Suddeutsche Zeitung, February 25, 2015
  14. ^ a b c Tahhan, Zena (2 October 2017). "Austria face veil ban 'criminalises Muslim women'". Al Jazeera English. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  15. ^ Nianias, Helen (2 October 2017). "Austrian police force Muslims to remove burkas". Irish Independent. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  16. ^ Bulman, May (1 October 2017). "Austrian face veil ban comes into force under new 'integration' policy". The Independent. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Austrian full-face veil ban comes into effect". Deutsche Welle. 1 October 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  18. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (1 October 2017). "Austria just slapped a burqa ban on the 150 women who dare to wear one". Quartz. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  19. ^ Nianias, Helen (2 October 2017). "Austrian police force Muslim women to remove their burqas". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Austrian Ban on Full-Face Veil in Public Places Comes into Force Sunday". Morocco World News. 1 October 2017. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  21. ^ "France's burqa ban upheld by human rights court". The Guardian. 1 July 2014.
  22. ^ "European Court of Human Rights upholds Belgium's ban on burqas and full-face Islamic veils". Independent. 11 July 2017.
  23. ^ Nyheter, SVT (2018-06-08). "Österrike stänger sju moskéer". SVT Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  24. ^ "Austria Closes 7 Mosques and Seeks to Expel Imams Paid by Turkey". The New York Times. 2018-06-08. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-06-09.
  25. ^ a b "Kopftuchverbot für Volksschüler: "Prüfen derzeit"". (in German). Retrieved 2018-10-28.
  26. ^ "Regierung plant Dokumentationsstelle für politischen Islam". (in German).
  27. ^ a b c d "Fundamentalismus-Studie: Hohe Werte in Österreich". ORF.
  28. ^ "Austria's Muslims twice as likely as non-Muslims to hold anti-Semitic views". (in German).
  29. ^ "Dokumentationsstelle für politischen Islam: DÖW grundsätzlich dafür".
  30. ^ a b c d Österreichischer Integrationsfonds: PDF Archived 2014-03-04 at the Wayback Machine (abgerufen am 17. Dezember 2011)
  31. ^ Öktem 2015, p. 50
  32. ^ Öktem 2015, pp. 50–51
  33. ^ a b Öktem 2015, p. 51
  34. ^ a b Öktem 2015, p. 52
  35. ^ a b c d "Muslims in Europe: Integrated but not accepted?" (PDF). Bertelsmann Stiftung. August 2017. p. 12. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  36. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-22. Retrieved 2011-10-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  37. ^ Bosnian Austrians
  38. ^ "Österreich - Ausländer nach Staatsangehörigkeiten 2018 - Statistik". Statista. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  39. ^ Refworld | Continuing Human Rights Abuses Force Chechens to Flee to Europe
  40. ^ "Muslims in Europe: Integrated but not accepted?" (PDF). Bertelsmann Stiftung. August 2017. p. 12. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  41. ^ Kamann, Matthias (25 August 2017). "Sind Muslime wirklich gut in den Arbeitsmarkt integriert?".
  42. ^ Hanfeld, Michael (September 2017). "Bertelsmann Studie zu Muslimen hat ihre Tücken".
  43. ^ Knauß, Ferdinand. "Die Muslimen-Studie von Bertelsmann ist haltlos".
  44. ^ "Türken in Österreich wählen zu 70 Prozent Erdogan". June 2018.
  45. ^ "Kurz legt Erdogan-Anhängern Verlassen Österreichs nahe". July 2016.
  46. ^ "Großrazzia gegen Muslimbruderschaft und Hamas in Österreich". (in German). Retrieved 2020-11-10.
  47. ^ Çakır & Schmidinger 2014, p. 60
  48. ^ a b Öktem 2015, p. 49
  49. ^ Öktem 2015, p. 48
  50. ^ Öktem 2015, p. 41
  51. ^ "What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?". Chatham House.
  52. ^ "Umfrage: Hohe Werte für politische Toleranz in Österreich". Der Standard.
  53. ^ Dearden, Lizzie (28 April 2017). "Austrian President calls on all women to wear headscarves in solidarity with Muslims to fight 'rampant Islamophobia'". The Independent. Retrieved 14 June 2017.


Further reading[edit]