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Austria expels 60 foreign imams, closes mosques

Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria

Grossglockner High Alpine Road in Austria

Austria announced it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and shut down seven mosques as part of a crackdown on “political Islam.”

And there is much more to come, according to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who formed a coalition government with conservatives and the far right amid Europe’s migration crisis.

When Kurz was minister in charge of integration, he spearheaded in 2015 the passage of a “law on Islam” that banned foreign funding of religious groups. The law also required Muslim societies to have “a positive fundamental view towards state and society.”

Speaking to reporters Friday in Vienna, Kurz declared: “Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalization have no place in our country.”

Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin, immediately shot back.

“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,” he said on Twitter.

The move effects about 60 imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations, a branch of Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet.

The Austrian government charges the group violated a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.

Seven mosques also will be shut in response to an investigation by Austria’s religious affairs authority that found they had been operating illegally.

Four mosques in Vienna are being shut down, two in the province of Upper Austria and one in Carinthia.

Among Austria’s 8.8 million people, are an estimated 600,000 Muslims. More than half are Turkish or have families of Turkish origin.

The Austrian government also recently announced further restrictions on the wearing of veils, with plans to ban girls in elementary schools and kindergartens from wearing headscarves.

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