Friday, July 20, 2012

Dialogue in Vienna

I’m still catching up on the backlog of translations that came in while I was away in Brussels. The following article, published a couple of weeks ago in Die Presse, describes the approval by the Austrian Parliament of the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue.

Many thanks to Hermes for the translation:

The “King Abdullah Center” given permission to be located in Vienna

The FPÖ [Austrian Freedom Party] and the Greens voted against it. They argued that there’s no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. The former justice minister Bandion-Ortner is expected to be the deputy general secretary.

The “King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue” is welcomed in Austria. The national assembly reached an agreement on Friday afternoon, despite negative votes from the FPÖ and the Greens, to provide this center, which is to be established in Vienna, with a legal identity. This is controversial mainly because it is financed by Saudi Arabia.

The FPÖ wants among other things the renaming of the center, which is to be named after the Saudi king, since the nature of the regime in Saudi Arabia is not compatible with an institution for religious dialogue. The FPÖ also considers that this institution is financially unsustainable over the long term. However, the party spoke in favor of the center while the issue was in committee. The Greens had been always against it, with their representative Alev Korun saying that it would be putting the fox in charge of the henhouse, if one sees how human rights and freedom of religion are trodden upon.

The SPÖ and the ÖVP defend the decision

The ÖVP [Austrian People’s Party] defended [the plan for] the center and rebuked these arguments, saying that dialogue is indispensable, and Vienna should remain a city of dialogue. Representative Reinhold Lopatka said that the Wahhabis (the leading group in Saudi Arabia) should also not be excluded. The SPÖ [Austrian Socialist Party] representative Hannes Weninger understood the concerns that the center could be used as a cover for the regime in Riyadh, but the general declaration of human rights and freedom of religion in the preamble of the institute’s declaration is also to be taken into consideration. The BZÖ [Alliance for the Future of Austria] based its positive vote in the necessity for dialogue.

The directorate of the institution will have representatives from twelve religions, including Judaism. The former justice minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner (ÖVP) is expected to fill the post of deputy general secretary. The opening of the center is scheduled for the end of November.

In contrast, consider this brief article from Bild, also translated by Hermes.

Dialogue in Austria; obedience in the Emirates:
Pamphlets with rules for behavior being distributed in the Emirates

Just before Ramadan, tourists arriving in the UAE are being given recommendations on how to behave properly in the Islamic country.

The 12-language pamphlets, which include German, are being distributed in the airport and in hotels, according to a report from the newspaper The National. The goal is to give a sense of security to the visitors and spare them unnecessary punishments, a leading official explained to the newspaper.

Among others, the recommendations warn against the consumption of alcohol in other than authorized locations, drug possession, driving under the influence of alcohol, prostitution, begging, vagrancy and other offenses against “local values and traditions”. During Ramadan, visitors are requested to abstain from eating, drinking and smoking in public places. They are further requested to abstain from displaying signs of affection and to dress in a moral way.