Austria to expel up to 60 imams, shut 7 mosques in crackdown on 'political Islam'

03:44 PM | 8 Jun, 2018
Austria to expel up to 60 imams, shut 7 mosques in crackdown on 'political Islam'
Share

VIENNA - Austria said Friday it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and 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 Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria's coalition government.

In total 150 people risked losing their right to residence, he said at a press 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", presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

Seven mosques will also be shut after an investigation by the religious affairs authority into images which emerged in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead and reenacting the World War I battle of Gallipoli.

"Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country," Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ruling centre-right People's Party said.

In several cases the process of expelling imams connected to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation was underway, Kickl said.