Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Austria to close seven mosques, expel imams in crackdown on ‘political Islam’

Austria to close seven mosques, expel imams in crackdown on ‘political Islam’

Austria's government on Friday said it would potentially expel dozens of imams and close several mosques in a move to tackle political Islam and stem the foreign financing of mosques.

Two imams have received deportation orders, and another 60 are under investigation and could face expulsion along with their family members, Herbert Kickl, the Austrian interior minister, said.

The decision to close the mosques was also influenced by pictures which emerged in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead, after reenacting a scene from World War I.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government was shutting down a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in the capital, Vienna, and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community, which runs an additional six mosques.

"Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country", Kurz told reporters in Vienna. The photos depicted boys wearing military uniforms, marching, saluting and carrying Turkish flags in a reenactment of the 1915-16 battle of Gallipoli, which saw the defeat of the allied forces by the Turks during World War I. Their "corpses" were then lined up and draped in the flags.

ATIB itself condemned the photos at the time, calling it a "highly regrettable" event and saying it was "called off before it had even ended".

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the move was the result of an "Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave" in Austria and was an attempt to target Muslim communities for political gains.

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"Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances", he added.

Both Kurz, of the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the FPOe made immigration and integration major themes in their election campaigns a year ago.

The coalition government, an alliance of conservatives and the far right, came to power soon after Europe's migration crisis on promises to prevent another influx and restrict benefits for new immigrants and refugees.

He added "the Austrian government's ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence".

Mr Kurz wants the European Union to break off Turkey's European Union membership negotiations - a stance that has angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Austria, with a population of 8.8 million, has roughly 600,000 Muslim inhabitants, majority Turkish or with families of Turkish origin.

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