Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced plan to expel more than 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and shut down 7 mosques as part of a crackdown on ‘political Islam’ that was described as ‘just the beginning’ by Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, triggering fury in Ankara.
Daily Mail The coalition Government, an alliance of conservatives and the anti-Islam right, came to power soon after Europe’s migration crisis on promises to prevent another influx and clamp down on benefits for new immigrants and refugees.
In campaigning for last year’s election, both coalition parties called for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.
Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country,’ Kurz told a news conference outlining the government’s decisions, which were based on that law. ‘This is just the beginning,’ far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache added.
The Government recently announced plans to ban girls from wearing headscarves in elementary schools and kindergartens, adding to existing restrictions on veils.
In a previous job as minister in charge of integration, Mr Kurz oversaw the passing of a tough “law on Islam” in 2015, which banned foreign funding of religious groups and created a duty for Muslim societies to have, “a positive fundamental view towards [Austria’s] state and society”.
Ankara quickly denounced the move, and Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter: ‘Austria’s decision to close down seven mosques and deport imams with a lame excuse is a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country.’ (About time!)
Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government, said: ‘The circle of people possibly affected by these measures – the pool that we’re talking about – comprises around 60 imams.’
Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet. The interior minister added that the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.
Seven mosques will also be shut after an investigation by Austria’s religious affairs authority sparked by images which emerged in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead and re-enacting the World War I battle of Gallipoli.
One of the mosques targeted by Friday’s measure was in the Favoriten district of Vienna. The government said it had been operating illegally and that it was under the influence of the far-right Turkish political movement, the Grey Wolves. Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers were met with a sign on the door reading ‘closed’ in Turkish and German.
Austria, a country of 8.8 million people, has roughly 600,000 Muslim inhabitants, more than half of whom are Turkish or have families of Turkish origin.