Austrian politicians and media are in uproar over a recent survey that said a fifth of all Islamic religious education teachers here hold anti-democratic views.

In the survey of 210 teachers, conducted as part of a PhD thesis, 21.9 percent agreed with the following statement: “I oppose democracy because it is not compatible with Islam.”

The public debate has worn on without asking a few crucial questions, such as how representative these findings are, how thorough the survey was and whether the questions steered the answers. (Photo: A Muslim woman and a far-right election poster saying “Now it’s about us Austrians” in Vienna, 18 Sept 2008/Dominic Ebenbichler)

Instead, only days after the survey appeared in the weekly magazine Falter, the education ministry unveiled a five-point programme to be implemented by the Islamic Community overseeing the teaching of Islam.

Children in Austria can choose to study their own religion at school. Lessons are funded by the state and, until now, teachers were not required to have any formal education. Now, among other measures, Islamic religion teachers will have to sign a contract stating their adherence to democracy, human rights and the Austrian constitution.