Austria announced on Friday that it will likely expel up to 60 Turkish-funded Imams and their families, and may shutter seven mosques as part of a crackdown on what they have termed "political Islam," reports AFP.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that Austrian officials will shut a Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna, while dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques.
"The circle of people possibly affected by these measures -- the pool that we're talking about -- comprises around 60 imams," said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria's coalition government.
Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey's religious affairs agency Diyanet.
Kickl added the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders. -AFP
40 of the Imams have active applications pending to extend their residency, however a number of them had already been referred to immigration authorities for expulsion. When family members are included, a total of 150 people stand to lose their residency, Kickl told a Vienna press conference.
The government actions are based on a 2015 Austrian law that prevents religious communities from receiving foreign funding.
Turkey immediately denounced the move, while populist politicians in Europe praised it.
"Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country. It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points," presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.
1/Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country. It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points.— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) June 8, 2018
The Austrian government’s ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence. Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances.— Ibrahim Kalin (@ikalin1) June 8, 2018
Former French Presidential candidate Marine Pe Pen lauded the move, tweeting "Austria is taking things in hand and showing that 'when you want to, you can!'"
Italy's new interior minister Matteo Salvini also voiced his support of Austria's actions, tweeting: "Those who exploit their faith to endanger a country's security should be expelled!"
Credo nella libertà di culto, non nell'estremismo religioso. Chi usa la propria fede per mettere a rischio la sicurezza di un Paese va allontanato!— Matteo Salvini (@matteosalvinimi) June 8, 2018
Spero già la prossima settimana di incontrare collega ministro austriaco per confrontarci su linee d’azione. https://t.co/WmwpJeYJEe
And while Austrian officials prepare to crack down on Imams in a culture war, former chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel is warning Europeans to push back against US policies which are disrupting the "international system of norms."
Schuessel, who also served as president of the European Council, told RT’s Oksana Boyko that the Trump administration posed a serious threat to the “international systems of norms” and should not be allowed to disregard international law with impunity.
Criticizing Washington’s decisions to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and initiate a trade war with its Western allies, Schuessel said that Europe “should stand up and defend our interests.” He suggested that Europe could seek remittal through international bodies such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. -RT
In other words, Austria is kind of old fashioned.