Posted on June 12, 2024

One-Third of Primary School Children in Vienna Are Muslims

Thomas Brooke, Remix, June 12, 2024

More than one-third of primary school children in Vienna are Muslims, representing the largest religious group among elementary schools in the Austrian capital.

According to figures published by the Education Directorate and cited by the Exxpress news site, 35 percent of primary school students are Muslims, while 21 percent are Catholic, 13 percent are Orthodox, and 2 percent are either Protestant or belong to another denomination.

Just over one in four pupils (26 percent) are classified as non-religious.

The figures show a considerable increase in the number of Muslim children frequenting Austrian primary schools compared to data published for the 2016/2017 academic year when Catholics remained the largest religious group at 31 percent compared to 28 percent of Muslims.

Left-wing deputy mayor Christoph Wiederkehr, who is also the city councilor in charge of education, dismissed suggestions that the increase should be a cause for concern.

“Faith is a private matter and freedom of belief or religious freedom is a very valuable asset,” he told journalists on Tuesday.

The survey also shows that young Muslims are very religious and most are actively practicing members at their respective mosques. “As a result, they tend to have more derogatory attitudes toward topics such as anti-Semitism, LGBT hostility, or equality between men and women,” Exxpress writes.

Kenan Güngör, a social scientist and diversity expert who advises the Austrian government on integration, has called for a change in the curriculum to accommodate lessons promoting democratic values from a young age to combat teachings being taught outside the classroom.

“There are more and more people converting to Islam – they then tend to be more radical,” Güngör warned.

He said that lessons teaching democracy, ethics, and values should be compulsory from first grade onwards, explaining that a “common belief” in Austria is democracy and this should be ingrained in all students irrespective of their religious affiliation.

In April, Christian Klar, a principal at a middle school in Vienna, discussed the growing intolerance toward minority groups within the rising Islamic student population frequenting his school.

“Ninety percent of the children here have a migrant background, significantly more than half are Islamic,” he told Austrian news portal Heute.

He explained how some students convert to Islam to avoid being bullied by what is now a majority group within the school.

“Those who don’t get bullied want to convert to Islam. I have students here who say, ‘Gays should be killed, that’s it, period.’ Or I get a textbook that says on the back: ‘Islam will win.’ Some people also say quite openly: ‘We’ll have more children anyway. It’s just a matter of time.’”