Turkey Bashes Austria for Plans to Expel 40 Imams

June 8, 2018

Turkey’s foreign ministry says it condemns Austrian politicians for “trying to achieve political interest” rather than fighting racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia after the Austrian government vowed to close seven mosques and expel at least 40 imams.

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said it condemns in particular Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and called the stance of the far-right government “contrary to universal legal norms, social cohesion policies, minority law, and the morality of living together.” It added, “the normalization and the banalization of Islamophobia and racism must be rejected with certainty.”

Turkey’s Anadolu news agency quotes Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag as calling the move a “violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.” 

Austria’s right-wing government said Friday it plans to close seven mosques and expel at least 40 imams with their families as part of a crackdown on “political Islam” and foreign financing of religious groups. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government is closing a hardline Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques.

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government, said that residence permits for imams employed by ATIB, a group that oversees Turkish mosques in Austria, are being reviewed because of concerns about financing.

In two cases, permits have already been revoked and five imams were recently denied first-time permits, Kickl said.

“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,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

The 31-year-old conservative Kurz became chancellor in December in a coalition with the anti-migration Freedom Party.

During the election campaign, both coalition parties called for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied, and a crackdown on radical Islam.

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