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

Turkey Blasts Austria for 'Racist' Move to Close Mosques, Expel Imams

Austria to expel 60 Turkish-funded imams and shut seven mosques

In a crackdown on politically-motivated Islamic activity, Austrian leader Sebastian Kurz said Friday seven mosques will be shut down and 40 Islamic leaders expelled from the country. "It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points".

The government is also looking into terminating the residency permits of some 40 imams who receive foreign funding, according to Interior Minister Hebert Kickl.

Kalin, a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggested that the decision is part of efforts to "normalise Islamophobia and racism", which he said must be rejected.

"The Austrian government's ideological stance is against universal law standards, social rehabilitation policies, minority laws and the ethics of coexistence", he added.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party said these steps are a "first significant and necessary step in the right direction", and warned more action could be taken against foreign-funded or political Islamist organisations.

The interior minister added that the government suspected them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.

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.

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The mosque in question was run by the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organization, based in the German city of Cologne, and a branch of Turkey's religious affairs agency Diyanet. 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.

Kurz, 31, became chancellor of Austria in December after his conservative People's Party entered a coalition with the far-right Freedom party.

ATIB itself condemned the photos at the time, calling the event "highly regrettable". "If these measures aren't enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there".

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.

"He's throwing his weight around and making a scene".

A nation of about 8.8 million people, Austria has a large Muslim community - about 700,000 people, and the majority is of Turkish origin.

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