Austria’s conservative government announced on Friday that it has expelled dozens of imams and closed seven mosques funded by Turkey.
The Austrian government’s actions stem from a 2015 law, which bans foreign funding of religious groups and required Muslim societies to have “a positive fundamental view towards [Austria’s] state and society.”
In April images emerged showing children in Turkish army uniforms re-enacting World War One’s Battle of Gallipoli. The Gallipoli re-enactment performance took place in a mosque reported to be run by the Turkish ultra-nationalist Grey Wolves group in Vienna-Favoriten district.
“Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country,” said the head of the Austrian government at a press conference.
“The circle of people who could be affected by these measures includes about 60 imams,” said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, a member of the far-right party FPÖ. Their families are also affected and a total of 150 people could lose their right of residence in Austria, he said.
In the wake of the announcement of the expulsions, Turkey, through President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesperson, Ibrahim Kalim, denounced what he called the “Islamophobic” and “racist” measure.
“The ideological position of the Austrian government runs counter to the principles of universal law, social cohesion policies, minority rights and the ethics of coexistence.”
Austria is home to an estimated 600,000 Muslims, mostly of Turkish origin. Relations between the Turkish and Austrian governments have been particularly tense since Chancellor Kurz’s decision to ban campaign meetings for the June 24 Turkish elections.
In campaigning for last year’s election, both coalition parties called for tougher immigration controls, quick deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests are denied and a crackdown on radical Islam.
The government recently announced plans to ban girls in elementary schools and kindergartens from wearing headscarves, adding to existing restrictions on veils.