Austria Plans to Close Mosques, Expel Imams

Chancellor announces crackdown on 'political Islam'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 8, 2018 12:10 AM CDT
Austria Announces Crackdown on 'Political Islam'
Heinz-Christian Strache, chairman of the right-wing Freedom Party, speaks at a news conference in Vienna, Austria.   (AP Photo/Ronald Zak,file)

Austria's government said Friday that it's closing seven mosques and plans to expel imams in a crackdown on "political Islam" and foreign financing of religious groups. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says the government is shutting a hard-line Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques, the AP reports. The actions by the government are based on a 2015 law that prevents religious communities from getting funding from abroad. Interior Minister Herbert Kickl says the residence permits of around 40 imams employed by ATIB, a group that oversees Turkish mosques in Austria, are being reviewed because of concerns about such financing.

Kickl says that, in two cases, permits have already been revoked. Five more imams were denied first-time permits. The conservative Kurz became chancellor in December in a coalition with the anti-migration Freedom Party. "Parallel societies, political Islam, and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country," Kurz told reporters in Vienna Friday. He added that the government's powers to intervene "were not sufficiently used" in the past. Friday's measures are "a first significant and necessary step in the right direction," said Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom Party's leader. "If these measures aren't enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there."

(More Austria stories.)

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