A study carried out in the Austrian capital Vienna has raised concerns about some of the city’s 150 Islamic kindergartens.
The study was authored by a professor at the Institute of Islamic Studies at Vienna University and questioned the involvement of groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, according to The Local.
“Intellectual Salafists and political Islamists are the dominant groups in the Islamic kindergarten scene in Vienna,” Ednan Aslam wrote in the report, The Local reported.
Austrian integration minister Sebastian Kurz defended the need for the study, warning that there was a danger of “parallel societies emerging.”
Aslan added that only 71 out of 150 kindergartens were willing to participate in his study, and some took down their websites to prevent access to information.
But Fuat Sanat, the president of Vienna’s Muslim community, described allegations of “Salafist” involvement in pre-school education as “ridiculous.”
Krone newspaper reported that the private pre-schools receive around $33 million in funding from the city.
An unnamed integration expert told the paper it was as easy to open an Islamic kindergarten in Vienna as it was to “open a kebab shop.”
In December 2015, Kurz urged the closure of “many Islamic kindergartens,” according to The Local. He went further, saying he thought it was problematic that Islamic preschools exist at all because they isolate children from Austrian society.
Some politicians said at the time that based on the study’s preliminary findings, there were not enough facts to back up Kurz’s claims of radical Islamic activity.
Johann Gudenus, deputy mayor of Vienna and member of the far right Freedom Party, intends to hold a special session in parliament on the kindergartens. He argues private providers should not be allowed to operate them in the city.
The controversy has been intensified by the ongoing debate about immigration in the European country.
In February, Austria announced it would only allow 80 asylum-seekers to apply at its borders each day, and only another 3,200 refugees to pass through the country. Soon after the announcement, it sent 450 additional soldiers to the border to prevent refugees from crossing, The Local reported.