Austria to close seven mosques, expel dozens of imams in 'political Islam' crackdown

Austria to close seven mosques, expel dozens of imams in 'political Islam' crackdown
Austria's right-wing government in launching a crackdown on mosques and imams it links to 'political Islam'
2 min read
08 June, 2018
Austria's far-right government is launching a crackdown on mosques [Getty]
More than 60 Turkish-funded Muslim imams could soon be expelled from Austria, as Vienna's right-wing government launches a crackdown on mosques linked to 'political Islam'.

At least seven mosques could be closed and more than 150 people lose their residency, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, of the far-right Freedom Party, told a press conference on Friday.

"The circle of people possibly affected by these measures - the pool that we're talking about - comprises around 60 imams," Kickl said, whose far-right party is a junior partner in the right-wing government.

Imams from the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association are already being expelled from Austria, while the Arab Religious Community - which runs six mosques - is also being dissolved.

The actions are based on a 2015 law banning foreign funding of religious communities and organisations in Austria.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the right-wing People's Party also backed the interior ministry's actions.

"Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country," he said.

Five imams were denied permits to preach in the country, while two other permits have been revoked.

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.
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"If these measures aren't enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there," he said.

The announcement comes after an Austrian magazine, published images showing young boys at a Vienna mosque - which is due to be closed - wearing camouflage uniforms, saluting, marching and waving the Turkish flag.

They are then shown to play dead with Turkish flags draped over their "bodies".  

The scenes are supposed to be a representation of the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War, when Ottoman troops fought off a UK-led offensive on Turkish shores.

The Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association said the event was "highly regrettable" and "called off before it had even ended".

Austria's right-wing government has promised to enact tougher restrictions on immigration and a crackdown on political Islam in the country.

Vienna has been at loggerheads with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist government, and urged the EU to call off negotiations regarding Ankara's possible accession the European bloc.

Austria also banned the Turkish economy minister from attending a pro-Ankara rally in Vienna last year.

Austria's government is one of the most right-wing administrations in the whole of the EU.