Austria’s government plans to shut down mosques and expel imams

Austria’s right-wing government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 40 foreign-funded imams in crackdown against Islamist ideology

  • Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced the measures in a news conference
  • Kurz said a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna is going to be closed 
  • The Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques will also be dissolved 

Austria’s right-wing government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 40 imams in what it said was ‘just the beginning’ of a push against Islamist ideology and foreign funding of religious groups.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government is shutting a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques.

His coalition government, an alliance of conservatives and the far right, came to power soon after Europe’s migration crisis on promises to prevent another influx and clamp down on benefits for new immigrants and refugees.

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Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (pictured) said the government is shutting a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community

In a previous job as minister in charge of integration, Chancellor Kurz oversaw the passing of a tough ‘law on Islam’ in 2015, which banned foreign funding of religious groups and created a duty for Muslim societies to have ‘a positive fundamental view towards (Austria’s) state and society’.

‘Political Islam’s parallel societies and radicalising tendencies have no place in our country,’ Kurz told a news conference outlining the government’s decisions, which were based on that law.

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One society that runs a mosque in Vienna and is influenced by the ‘Grey Wolves’, a Turkish nationalist youth group, would be shut down for operating illegally, the government said in a statement.

An Arab Muslim group that runs at least six mosques would also be shut down, it added.

The actions by the government are based on a 2015 law that, among other things, prevents religious communities from getting funding from abroad. Pictured left, Kurz and right, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache 

‘This is just the beginning,’ far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache told the news conference held by four cabinet members.

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

He added: ‘If these measures aren’t enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there.’

The ministers said up to 60 imams belonging to ATIB, a Muslim group close to the Turkish government, could be expelled from the country or have visas denied on grounds of receiving foreign funding.

A government handout put the number at 40, of whom 11 were under review and two had already received a negative ruling.

Austria, a country of 8.8 million people, has roughly 600,000 Muslim inhabitants, most of whom are Turkish or have families of Turkish origin.

‘This is just the beginning,’ far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (centre) told the news conference. Pictured left, Kurz and right, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl

The conservative Kurz became chancellor in December in a coalition with the anti-migration Freedom Party.

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.

The government recently announced plans to ban girls in elementary schools and kindergartens from wearing headscarves, adding to existing restrictions on veils.

‘Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalisation have no place in our country,’ Kurz told reporters in Vienna.

He added that the government’s powers to intervene ‘were not sufficiently used’ in the past.

 

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