Vienna, 20 November 2007. "Muslim Youth and Women in the West - Source of Concern or Source of Hope?" In May 2007, this question was at the centre of an international conference in Salzburg organized by the New York University Center for Dialogues with substantial support by the Foreign Ministry. The report on the Salzburg conference was presented today in the Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Minister Dr. Ursula Plassnik: "Let us speak of ‘problem children’ as well as of 'bearers of hope'. Especially Muslim youth and women are often in the spotlight in the debate concerning integration and the relation of Islam to the West. For me, this topic is very relevant in my work. It has a direct link to foreign and European policy."
At the same time, the Minister underscored the importance of the communal role in "giving a home". Plassnik: "The global village is getting smaller. We are moving closer to each other. This does not necessarily mean that things are getting warmer. A new coldness has emerged. Yet we can and must actively shape the way we live together, both within our societies and on an international scale."
The Foreign Minister spoke of the concept of "reaching out with both arms open - one toward our fellow citizens of other religions and traditions, and one toward the rest of the world." Plassnik: "These are two sides of the same task that we have to take up. Integration work cannot be outsourced. It is a social task for all of us and a social claim we have in common."
The Foreign Minister said that it is "essential" to move from living next to each other toward living with each other. Plassnik: "Women and youth are at the centre of these considerations. Why? For some discussions, women and youth are considered a yardstick for successful integration. Moreover, they are the driving force of change."
Plassnik demanded a "differentiated approach: We should understand that, especially with women and youth, there is a lot of unused potential for successful integration, and this is something one should address very specifically." At the same time, Plassnik emphasized the universality of human rights. Especially with regard to women, there should be no relativization or dividing lines on the basis of traditions, geography, or customs.
Plassnik described integration as a long-term task. "The objective of my work is not to stage a one-time event, but to knit a lasting fabric. The results of the Salzburg conference will be integrated in our further cooperation with our Slovenian friends and partners, who will take over the EU Presidency in January." Plassnik described the coming year of intercultural dialogue in Europe as "a very good opportunity to continue our efficient work".
She said that the main concern is finding a home, "the possibility to turn from a guest into a host, yet also the task of giving others a home".
The Foreign Minister demanded "openness and discretion in dialogue". Plassnik: "We must speak openly of what irritates us about each other, yet we must also become aware of what we share and have in common."
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