Far-left Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen suggested on television that all woman should start wearing headscarves in order to protect others from Islamophobia. He announced this in a room full of young students, for whom he was doing a question and answer session.
While Van der Bellen said that he believes a woman should wear whatever she wants, they quoted him as saying: “as rampant Islamophobia continues, there will come a day when we must ask all women to wear a headscarf – all of them! – out of solidarity towards those who do it for religious reasons”.
Van der Bellen was sworn in last year and mostly ran on a campaign of looser immigration laws, promising to allow refugees to settle there.
Van der Bellen, who was sworn in as president in January after defeating anti-mass migration Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer in last December’s presidential re-run, has spoken of his support for abolishing national borders and creating a federal Europe, describing it as a “project of peace”.
Whilst running on an election platform in 2007 for the Austrian Greens, Van der Bellen presided over a poster that declared: “Anyone who loves Austria must be shit.”
However, the Austrian president has little influence over Austrian policy, with his role as president mainly symbolic and ceremonial.
His comments run against recent legislation passed by the Austrian government, who last month banned the full-face Islamic veil, known as the burqa, in public places as part of a new integration package.
In response to the ban, between 2,000 and 3,000 mainly Muslim women protested in the streets of Vienna under the slogan “MuslimBanAustria – My Body, My Right to Self-Determination,” while accusing the government of “Islamophobia”.