In February, the Austrian Parliament amended the country's century-old "Islam Law." The new legislation, though controversial, is a significant achievement. In promoting a moderate, homegrown Islam compatible with democratic values, Austria has taken a positive step to combat extremism while protecting religious liberties.
The original Islam law, passed in 1912, sought to integrate thousands of Muslims who officially came under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire following its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908. Predominantly Roman Catholic, Austria-Hungary extended Muslims the same rights of worship as other official religions, and granted state protection to Islamic customs, doctrines and institutions. But the empire's breakup following World War I left just a few hundred Muslims in Austria, and the Islam Law became irrelevant.
The current landscape is vastly different. A 2014 University of Vienna report put the number of Muslims in Austria at over 550,000, or about 7 percent of the national population as of 2012.