By Askin Kiyagan and Meryem Goktas
VIENNA, Austria / ANKARA, Turkey
Austria will shut seven mosques and expel 40 imams, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on Friday.
During a news conference with Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache and EU Affairs Minister Gernot Blumel, Kurz said the move came as part of a crackdown on "political Islam".
Kurz said that the investigation on several mosques and associations conducted by the Ministry of Interior and Office of Religious Affairs had been concluded and that the activities of seven mosques were found to be forbidden -- one of them belonging to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB).
The Austrian chancellor added that the imams would be deported on grounds of being foreign funded.
In 2015 when Kurz was Austria's minister for Europe, integration and foreign affairs he backed Austria’s “law on Islam” (Islamgesetz) -- legislation that, among other things, banned the foreign funding of mosques and imams in Austria. The controversial law, which eventually passed through parliament, was intended to develop an Islam of “European character,” according to Kurz.
“We act decisively and actively against undesirable developments and the formation of #parallelsocieties - and will continue to do so if there are violations of the #law on Islam,” Kurz wrote on his Twitter account.
Turkey slams Austria's move
Turkey’s presidential aide Ibrahim Kalin on his Twitter account said that Austria’s move 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," he said.
Kalin said that 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," he added.