Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen has predicted that soon “All women” in his country may be asked to wear headscarves in “solidarity” with Muslims, citing prejudice members of the Islamic face. In his statements on Monday, Van der Bellen also said that it is "every woman's right to wear whatever she likes."
But in reference to alleged discrimination faced by Muslims in Austria, Van der Bellen said that "if this continues... with the widely spreading Islamophobia, the day will come when we have to ask all women to wear a headscarf – all – out of solidarity to those who do it for religious reasons."
After being broadcast on ORF, the president’s remarks did not sit well with some people on social media.
“Dexter” wrote on Twitter: “This world is going to shitter in a hand basket and it's people like this Austrian President that tries to normalize it.. Make America Great Again. No sharia.”
There was such an outpouring of opprobrium on social media that Van der Bellen had to defend his remarks. On Facebook, he stated that women who wear headscarves are often subjected to "public hostility" in Austria.
In March, several government officials condemned the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGO) for calling on Muslim women to start wearing a headscarf from the onset of puberty. Austria’s secretary of state, Muna Duzdar, said she "deeply" rejects headscarves.
Just three months before Van der Bellen's comments, the Austrian government announced plans to ban full-face veils in public. The announcement brought about a demonstration by Muslims and allies in Vienna. Islamic garb has long been debated. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in March that employers can ban Muslim garb under general rules which prohibit visible religious symbols in the workplace.