Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Austria to expel up to 60 imams, close mosques

AFP, VIENNA

Austria on Friday said 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 fury in Ankara.

“The circle of people possibly affected by these measures — the pool that we’re talking about — comprises around 60 imams,” said Austrian Minister of the Interior Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party, the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government.

Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations organization, a branch of the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs.

The Austrian government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders, Kickl said.

Forty 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 under way, the ministry said.

Once family members were taken into account, a total 150 people risked losing their right to residence, Kickl told a news conference in Vienna.

Ankara quickly denounced the move.

“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,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

However, other European far-right leaders welcomed the announcement.

“Austria is taking things in hand and showing that ‘when you want to, you can!’” tweeted Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French Front National.

Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini, who is head of Italy’s League, also tweeted his approval, saying: “Those who exploit their faith to endanger a country’s security should be expelled!”

Seven mosques would 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 Battle of Gallipoli.

“Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalization have no place in our country,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ruling center-right People’s Party.

The photographs, published by the Falter weekly, showed the young boys in camouflage uniforms marching, saluting, waving Turkish flags and then playing dead.

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

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