Austria to Expel up to 60 Imams, Close 7 Mosques

“The circle of people possibly affected by these measures – the pool that we’re talking about – comprises around 60 imams,” said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the nationalist Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government. The photos of children, published by the Falter weekly, showed the young boys in camouflage uniforms marching, saluting, waving Turkish flags and then playing dead. “Austria’s decision to close down seven mosques and deport imams with a lame excuse is a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country”, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin whinged on Twitter. The mosque in question was run by ATIB. All but one of the mosques affected belong to the “Arab Religious Association,” according to the government. Around 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals. Turkish Arrogance Turkey’s relations with Austria have long been strained, with Kurz calling on the European Union to break off negotiations on Ankara joining the bloc and banning Turkish politicians from campaigning in Austria for upcoming elections. Austria Erdogan Islamic immigration Islamic jihad migrant crisis mosque Nationalism Sebastian Kurz TurkeyAustria said Friday it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and would shut down seven mosques as part of a crackdown on “political Islam”, triggering impotent fury in Ankara. In Friday’s press conference Kurz was keen to emphasise that the action was being taken under legislation to regulate Islamic associations that he himself brought in as a minister in the previous government and which had so far — in his opinion — not been used often enough. Other European nationalist leaders welcomed the announcement. “He’s throwing his weight around and making a scene,” Erdogan went on. The interior minister added that the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders. “Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country,” said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ruling centre-right People’s Party. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French Front National, said on Twitter: “Austria is taking things in hand and showing that ‘when you want to, you can!'” Matteo Salvini, head of Italy’s League and interior minister in the new government, also tweeted his approval, saying: “Those who exploit their faith to endanger a country’s security should be expelled!” Islamic Triumphalism Seven mosques will also be shut after an investigation by Austria’s religious affairs authority sparked by images which emerged in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead and re-enacting the World War I battle of Gallipoli. Their “corpses” were then lined up and draped in the flags. Austria to expel up to 60 foreign-funded imams and shut seven mosques — Defend Europa (@DefendEvropa) June 8, 2018 Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet. ATIB itself condemned the photos at the time, calling the event “highly regrettable” and saying it was “called off before it had even ended”. Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers were met with a sign on the door reading “closed” in Turkish and German. The ministry said 40 of them had an active application for extending their residency and that a number of these had already been referred to immigration authorities, where a process for expelling them was underway. Both Kurz, of the centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) and the FPOe made immigration and integration major themes in their election campaigns last year. Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked Kurz, saying: “This immoral chancellor has a problem with us”. One of the mosques targeted by Friday’s measure was in the Favoriten district of Vienna. Predictably, Ankara denounced the move. The government said it had been operating illegally and that it was under the influence of the far-right Turkish political movement, the Grey Wolves. The topic had been pushed up the political agenda by the migrant crisis of 2015-16, which saw more than 150,000 people seek asylum in the country of 8.7 million. {Snip} Six other mosques are being closed down, three in Vienna, two in Upper Austria and one in Carinthia. Once family members were taken into account, a total of 150 people risked losing their right to residence, Kickl told a Vienna press conference.