Is a Sikh allowed in Mecca?

Federal Army: Pray towards Mecca with the army

Vienna. Recruit Ciger has been doing his military service with the guard battalion in Vienna's Maria-Theresien-Kaserne since June. The 20-year-old's roots are in Central Anatolia, he is a devout Muslim. In everyday life, therefore, was repeatedly confronted with hostility, he tells the "Wiener Zeitung". Ciger was all the more surprised that origin and religion were never negatively commented on in the armed forces - neither by superiors nor by other basic military servants.

"Unlike outside, we even take it into account," he reports. It was possible for him to keep the five times of prayer during Ramadan without any problems. He didn't fast. But that is not a problem: "As soon as you are in the army, you do not need to fast." Ciger catches up with the fast when he's free, on weekends and after military service.

Around 1200 Muslims do their military service in the Austrian Armed Forces every year. When the guard was sworn in at the end of August on the Kaiserwiese in front of the Vienna Ferris wheel, members of the Islamic religious community swore their oath of the flag. At the moment they are not allowed to comment on the upcoming national military service, but they have a lot of positive things to say about basic military service. Ciger, for example, is particularly proud at this moment. He wanted to prove to his father that he could do it. In contrast to the son, the father was declared unfit at the time in Turkey.

Muslims have a long tradition in the Austrian Armed Forces. After Bosnia-Herzegovina was annexed in 1908, the Bosniak regiments were among the elite troops of the k. u. k. Army and also provided part of the imperial bodyguard. In the Maria-Theresien-Kaserne there is a barracks mosque and the canteen offers food without pork.

Devout people of all religions must declare themselves before joining the army and submit a confirmation of their religious community. Then the respective peculiarities are taken into account, explains Major Peter Kanitsch. He tells of a military servant who was a devout Sikh. He was allowed to wear his beard and turban. It wasn't a problem for the other soldiers. "We respect any background, be it religious or otherwise," emphasizes the major. Most of the strict believers are grouped outside of the group bodies and become part of Twelve Axing.