Both coalition parties have called for tougher immigration controls and a crackdown on radical Islam. (Reuters: Heinz-Peter Bader)
Austria’s right-wing Government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 40 imams in what it says is “just the beginning” of a push against Islamist ideology and foreign funding of religious groups.
- Arab Religious Community and hard-line Turkish nationalist group among targets of crackdown
- Plans recently announced for banning schoolgirls wearing headscarves
- “Just the beginning”, Vice Chancellor said
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the Government was shutting a hard-line Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques.
The coalition Government, an alliance of conservatives and the far right, came to power soon after Europe’s migration crisis on promises to prevent another influx and clamp down on benefits for new immigrants and refugees.
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 from wearing headscarves in elementary schools and kindergartens, adding to existing restrictions on veils.
In a previous job as minister in charge of integration, Mr Kurz oversaw the passing of a tough “law on Islam” in 2015, which banned foreign funding of religious groups and created a duty for Muslim societies to have, “a positive fundamental view towards [Austria’s] state and society”.
‘This is just the beginning’
Heinz-Christian Strache and Sebastian Kurz both campaigned on anti-immigration platforms in October’s election. (AP: Ronald Zak)
“Political Islam’s parallel societies and radicalising tendencies have no place in our country,” Mr Kurz told a news conference outlining the Government’s decisions, which were based on that law.
He added that the Government’s powers to intervene, “were not sufficiently used” in the past.
Austria, a country of 8.8 million people, has roughly 700,000 Muslim inhabitants, most of whom are Turkish or have families of Turkish origin.
The Arab Religious Community and another society influenced by the “Grey Wolves”, a Turkish nationalist youth group, would be shut down for operating illegally, the Government said in a statement.
“This is just the beginning,” far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache told the news conference held by four cabinet members.
Friday’s measures are, “a first significant and necessary step in the right direction,” said Mr Strache.
“If these measures aren’t enough, we will, if necessary, evaluate the legal situation here or there.”
The ministers said up to 60 imams belonging to ATIB, a Muslim group close to the Turkish Government, could be expelled from the country or have visas denied on grounds of receiving foreign funding.
A government handout put the number at 40, of whom 11 were under review and two had already received a negative ruling.
Five more imams were denied first-time permits.