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 supposed 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 against the negative votes of the FPÖ and the Greens to provide this center with the status of legal personality, which is to be established in Vienna. This is controversial mainly because it is financed by Saudi Arabia.
The FPÖ wants among others the renaming of the center, which is to be named after the saudi king, for 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 financilly not sustainable on the long term. However. they spoke in favor of the centrum while being in the committee. The Greens had been always against it, with their representative Alev Korun saying that it would be to put the fox in charge of the henhouse, if one sees how human rights and freedom of religion are trodded upon
The SPÖ and the ÖVP defend the decision
The ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) defended (the plan for) the centrum 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 concerns that the center could be used as a cover for the regime in Riyad, 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 neccesity of dialogue.
The directorate of the institution will have representants from 12 religions, including judaism. The former justice minister Claudia Bandion-Ortner (ÖVP) is supposed to fill the post of deputy general secretary. The opening of the center is scheduled for the end of November.