Sunday, April 09, 2006


Vienna, 7 April (AKI) - A conference of 150 Muslim leaders and imams from more than 40 European countries opened on Friday in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The three-day gathering will focus on issues affecting the Muslim communities in Europe, such as the creation of new jobs and the role of women. A key goal will be to hammer out an identity for European Muslims that preserves their traditions while integrating with Western political and social values.The gathering comes at a critical moment for the faith, under pressure from anti-terror probes and a perceived clash with Western values - highlighted by the recent Prophet cartoons crisis. The Second Conference of European Imams will be attended by clerics from Turkey to the United Kingdom, as well as Austria's president, Heinz Fischer, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner, and EU Racism and Xenophobia Observatory chief, Beate Winkler, as well as the Islamic Scientific, Education and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) director general Abdul-Aziz al-Tuweijiry. The meeting is being organised by Vienna's Islamic Religious Authority (IRA).Axel Byybu Koehler, president of Germany's Central Muslim Council, and representatives of Europe's main Muslim organisations will address the conference, where issues such as Islamic education, political participation, integration, the role of family, employment, the environment and ainmal rights will also be discussed.An estimated 15 million Muslims live in the European Union's 25 member states, forming approximately 3.3 percent of the bloc's population. There are 400,000 Muslims in Austria, some 4 percent of the population. Islam, which was officially acknowledged in Austria in 1912, is considered the country's second religion after Catholicism.

No comments: