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Breaking with Austrian Consociationalism: How the Rise of Rightwing Populism and Party Competition Have Changed Austria's Islam Politics

  • Farid Hafez (a1) and Reinhard Heinisch (a1)

This paper seeks to explain Austria's Islam-related politics by first suggesting that it can be best understood in terms of neo-institutionalist path-dependency and consociationalist policy-making. This is due to the fact that Austria gave Islam full legal recognition in 1912. Important institutional patterns and policies grew out of this law in the Second Republic, whose persistence we want to examine. The Islamic Religious Community constituted itself under public law as a neo-corporatist interest group for Muslims in Austria in 1979. More recently, the government's approach toward Islam has shifted. This change can be best accounted for by party competition in which the far-right Freedom Party of Austria has sought to monopolize this issue. Consequently, this paper explores the contradictions between, on the one hand, the long-established principle of state neutrality and evenhandedness when dealing with various legally recognized religious communities and, on the other hand, discriminatory Islam-related politics.

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Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Farid Hafez, University of Salzburg. E-mail:
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