Austria's unashamed adoption of double standards, despite its appearance, really does have a kind of underlying logic. Thus crucifixes and Christian teaching in schools is fine but Islamic symbols and teaching are prohibited. This has its roots in Hitler's confiscation of all church land; they didn't have a Henry VIII here, so in the 20th century the church was still the country's biggest landowner. In return for the land (which now belongs to the Austrian state) Hitler gave the church the right to levy a 1% income tax. It was the one Hitler law that was never repealed; we Catholics still have to pay it or go to jail. Not only does this give the church certain privileges, it also makes it very rich.
So when earlier this year a law against covering the face in public was introduced, intended to ban the Niqab and Burqa, the first €150 fine handed out by the police was to a bloke in a shark costume advertising a computer chain. Those of you who read my piece on the Krampus parades last week must now be thinking "Hang on, isn't covering their faces like that now illegal?"
Well, yes. Unless of course it's being done as part of a traditional Austrian folk display. In which case it's fine. So when a group of Krampus mounted a peaceful march to show they were actually men and not devils, and to prevent any potential anti-Krampus legislation, they had to carry their masks. The police explained that if they were walking peacefully, rather than leaping about amongst fiery flames screaming obscenities and hitting people with sticks, they were not protected by the exemption to the law.