Governor moves to block mosques with changes in planning regulations

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THE Austrian right-wing firebrand Joerg Haider said yesterday he plans to change building laws to prevent mosques and minarets being erected in his home province of Carinthia.

Mr Haider, the governor, said he would ask parliament to amend the building code to require towns and villages to consider "religious and cultural tradition" when dealing with construction requests.

"We don't want a clash of cultures and we don't want institutions which are alien to our culture being erected in western Europe," Mr Haider said.

"Muslims have, of course, the right to practise their religion, but I oppose erecting mosques and minarets as centres to advertise the power of Islam," he said.

His office said that there were no plans to restrict Muslim prayer rooms.

Carinthia has the second lowest share of Muslim citizens of all Austrian provinces - 11,000 out of a population of 400,000, a Muslim spokesman said.

"It's a ridiculous statement to say he fears a clash of civilisations [in Carinthia]," said Omar al-Rawi, a spokesman for the Austrian Muslims' Initiative.

"We don't know of any mosque plans there. His move is meaningless, populist, racist and anti-Islamic," he added.