Austria shuts seven mosques and plans to expel imams in ‘political Islam’ crackdown

The Austrian government is to order the closure of seven mosques and expel up to 60 imams in a crackdown on political Islam and Turkish nationalism, it has announced.

“Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country,” Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, said.

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Six of the seven mosques are being closed on suspicion of links to Islamic extremism. They are run by an organisation called the Arab Religious Community, which the government has also ordered to be shut down.

The seventh mosque affected is a separate case. It is to be closed on suspicion of links to the Grey Wolves, a far-Right Turkish nationalist group.

The move comes after images emerged earlier this year of children as young as four being made to wear Turkish army uniforms and salute the Turkish flag inside the mosque in Vienna’s Favoriten district.

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. 

They include 40 members of the Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe (ATIB), a group close to the Turkish government which is also suspected of links with the Grey Wolves. 

The Austrian government says it is targeting foreign financing of religious groups as well as what it calls political Islam in the country – but Turkey has reacted angrily, calling the moves discriminatoryCredit:
Ronald Zak/AP

Turkey reacted angrily to the move.

“Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country,” a spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points.”

Austria denied that the move targeted Muslims in general and said it was only directed at politicised mosques whose activities were not in line with the country’s constitution.

“It is not a contradiction to be a devout Muslim and a proud Austrian,” Gernot Blümel, the culture minister said.

Mr Kurz is in coalition with the far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and his government has been accused of fanning populist anti-Muslim sentiment.

Six of the mosques to be closed are run by the Arab Religious Community. The Austrian government says the group is promoting the hardline Salafi school of Islam followed by extremists such as Isil and al-Qaeda.

 

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