Austria closing 7 mosques in effort to stem political Islam

Austria to shut down mosques expel foreign-funded imams

As part of a crackdown on "Political Islam" Austria could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families, said Interior minister Herbert Kicki on Friday.

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.

"Political Islam's parallel societies and radicalising tendencies have no place in our country", said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who, in a previous job as minister in charge of integration, steered the Islam bill into law.

This move was condemned by Turkey, that labelled it "racist", "discriminatory", and "anti-islam".

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl from the far-right Freedom Party (FPO) also noted that almost 150 people would lose their residential rights. "Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances".

All 40 of the imams in respect of which there is a check, are members of the Cologne-based Association of Turkish-Islamic cultural associations in Europe ATIB, which is associated with the Turkish government Agency for religious Affairs Diyanet.

Austria, with a population of 8.8 million, has roughly 600,000 Muslim inhabitants, majority Turkish or with families of Turkish origin.

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Kurz said the investigation started as images emerged of young boys wearing Turkish uniforms marching, saluting and waving Turkish flags.

Officials said the imams will be deported because they are foreign-funded, a provision that became criminal in Austria three years ago.

The seventh mosque is to be closed on suspicion of links to the Grey Wolves, a far-Right Turkish nationalist group.

Even Austria's opposition parties were broadly supportive of Friday's announcement, with the center-left Social Democrats calling it "the first sensible thing this government's done".

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week of Kurz, "This immoral chancellor has a problem with us".

Kurz, 31, became chancellor of Austria in December after his conservative People's Party entered a coalition with the far-right Freedom party.

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