Monday, 11 June 2018
Austria to close seven mosques, expel imams
Austria's right-wing government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 60 imams in what it described as "just the beginning" of a crackdown on "political Islam" and foreign-funded Islamic communities. The measures mark the first time the country's controversial "law on Islam" -- introduced in 2015 when current Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was foreign minister -- is being invoked.
The imams and mosques being targeted are suspected of breaching a rule that bans the foreign funding of Islamic communities.
"Austria is a land of diversity, where religious freedom is highly valued, but it is also clear that we are a constitutional state where statutory rules are needed to organize our coexistence," Kurz said Friday. "Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalization have no place in our country."
ice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, whose anti-immigrant, anti-Islam Freedom Party is currently in a coalition government with Kurz's conservative People's Party, said the crackdown on "dubious finance flows" was "just the beginning" of the fight against "radical political Islam."
Critics warn that the measures indicate an Islamophobic attitude in Austria's new government, formed last December.
Turkish government spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Friday on Twitter that the government's "ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence."
A society that runs a mosque linked with the "Grey Wolves," a nationalist Turkish organization, will be shut down along with an Arab Muslim group that runs at least six mosques.
Austria's Office of Religious Affairs -- which has recently seen its powers expanded -- will oversee the process.
The 60 imams affected are all connected to the Turkish Islamic Cultural Association (ATIB). They could be expelled from the country or have their visas denied on the grounds of allegedly receiving foreign funding.
Including family members, 150 people could be affected, according to Interior Minister Herbert Kickl.