Austria: Ankara calls racist anti-Islam crackdown on foreign-funded mosques

The office of the Turkish President has slammed Austrian authorities’ move to close down seven mosques allegedly receiving foreign funding and to expulse 60 imams among whom several Turkish nationals.

“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,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter.

“It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points.”

The Austria government Friday announced at a press conference its move to shut down seven mosques that it believes receive foreign funding and spread political Islam. The decision targets mosques run by the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association and the Arab Religious Community. The latter will also be dissolved as part of the decision.

Interior minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party indicated that more than 150 people including 60 imams will be expelled.

Kickl was seconded in his actions by the country’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who stressed Austria will not accept “Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalization.”

The right wing and far right coalition government took aim at the mosques following the publication by an Austrian magazine of images showing young boys at a Vienna mosque – which is due to be closed – wearing camouflage uniforms, saluting, marching and waving the Turkish flag, reports say.

The scenes were sketches of the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War, when Ottoman troops fought off a UK-led offensive on Turkish shores.

Tensions have raised between Ankara and Vienna since July 2016 in the wake of the failed coup against Erdogan. Austrian authorities have been very critical of Erdogan’s alleged Islamic policy. They also prevented Erdogan-linked authorities from holding campaigns in the Turkish diaspora in the framework of April 2017 referendum.

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