Turkey blasts Austria's 'racist' move to close mosques

Elias Hubbard
June 8, 2018

Austria's right-wing Government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 40 imams in what it says is "just the beginning" of a push against Islamist ideology and foreign funding of religious groups.

The Austrian authorities explained that they are planning to shut down a society influenced by ultra-nationalist Turkish group the Grey Wolves, which runs a mosque in Vienna.

Their "corpses" were then lined up and draped in the flags.

In 2015 when Kurz was Austria's minister for Europe, integration and foreign affairs he backed Austria's "law on Islam" (Islamgesetz) - legislation that, among other things, banned the foreign funding of mosques and imams in Austria. The pictures were found to have come from Cologne-based the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organization, a branch of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).

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.

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

"Austria's decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country", Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tweeted.

"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", Kalin said.

Mr Kalin suggested the decision was part of efforts to "normalise Islamophobia and racism", which he said must be rejected.

Both Mr Kurz and the FPOe made immigration and integration major themes in their election campaigns past year. The government recently announced plans to ban girls in elementary schools and kindergartens from wearing headscarves, adding to restrictions on veils.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz insists that this move is to battle radicalization. "Political Islam's parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country", Kurz told a news conference on Friday.

During the Turkish referendum campaign previous year on expanding the president's powers, tensions were high between Vienna and Ankara after Austria said it would not allow campaign-related events.

The Freedom Party's leader said Friday's measures are 'a first significant and necessary step in the right direction'.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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