Turkey condemns Austria's 'racist' move to close seven mosques
Austria Turkey condemns Austria's 'racist' move to close seven mosques
Austrian chancellor says country can no longer put up with âparallel societiesâ
Up to 60 Turkish imams and their families face expulsion from Austria and seven mosques are due to be closed under a clampdown on what the government has called âpolitical Islamâ.
Austriaâs chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, said the co untry could no longer put up with âparallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation,â which he said had âno place in our countryâ.Can Europeâs new xenophobes reshape the continent? Read more
The announcement at a press conference by leading members of the coalition government, which comprises the ruling centre-right Peopleâs party (ÃVP) and the far-right Freedom party (FPÃ), prompted a furious reaction from Ankara, which called the move anti-Islamic.
âAustriaâs decision to shut down numerous mosques and deport imams with a lame excuse is a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country,â tweeted Ä°brahim Kalin, a spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip ErdoÄan.
Austriaâs interior minister, Herbert Kickl, of the FPÃ, said around 150 people faced losing their right to residency, taking into account the imamsâ family members.
The moves follow an investigation by the national religious affairs authority into activities carried out by mosques in Austria. Images published in April showing children in a Turkish-financed mosque reenacting the first world war battle of Gallipoli have dominated headlines in Austria for weeks and intensified a nationwide debate over what is widely viewed as the insufficient integration of Turks in Austrian society.
The photographs showed some of the boys playing dead, having fallen in battle, and then being draped in Turkish flags, at what was reportedly an official event organised by the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association (ATIB). At the time the ATIB condemned the images, calling the event âextremely regrettableâ but insisting it had called it off.
Relations between Austria and Turkey have long been strained, with Kurz insistent to the European Union since he entered office last year that it should cease negotiations about Ankara joining the bloc.
At the press conference on Friday, Kurz , Kickl, Christian Strache, the vice-chancellor, and Gernot BlÃ¼mel, the culture minister, said the country had an obligation to be âwatchfulâ of political Islam. The initiative is part of the so-called Islam law, which was brought in under the previous government, in which Kurz was a minister.
Among the mosques facing closure is the Mosque of the Grey Wolves on Antonsplatz, in the working-class Vienna district of Favoriten, where the Gallipoli reenactment took place. The Grey Wolves are widely considered to be a far-right ultranationalist group. The other six mosques are in Vienna, Upper Austria and Carinthia, in all of which hardline salafist teachings are said to be widespread.
The imams facing expulsion all stand accused of receiving funding from abroad. In 11 cases, official investigations have been launched. Two of the imams had already been denied extensions to their residency permits.'It's been looming over us for decades': Austrian voters on the far-right Read more
BlÃ¼mel stressed that the clampdown was not anti-Islam, insisting that âit is not a contradiction to be both a practicing Muslim and a proud Austrianâ.
ATIB, which is the umbrella organisation for 60 associations with over 100,000 members, said it made no secret of the fact that it funded imams in Austria. âThis happens not because we want it to but because there is no adequate training offered for imams in Austria,â Yasar Ersoy, its spokesman, told Austrian radio.
Thomas Schmidinger, a political scientist, said he doubted whether outlawing outsider funding for Austria-based imams would have the effect of reining them in.
âI think itâs far more likely to be the case that ATIB will feel marginalised and will try to find alternative, albeit illegal ways to finance imams,â he told Austrian media.
He said extremist groups like the Grey Wolves were likely to be driven underground, making it far ha rder for authorities to monitor them. He also said it was unfortunate the government had launched its clampdown in the middle of a Turkish election campaign, calling it âwater on the wheels of the far rightâ.
During last yearâs Turkish referendum on expanding the presidentâs powers, tensions ran high between Vienna and Ankara after Austria said it would not allow campaign-related events. Relations were also strained by Kurzâs staunch opposition to Turkeyâs bid to join the EU.Topics
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