Published: Fri, June 08, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Turkey blasts Austria's 'racist' move to close mosques

Turkey blasts Austria's 'racist' move to close mosques

Austria's right-wing government plans to shut down seven mosques and expel up to 40 imams in what it said was "just the beginning" of a push against Islamist ideology and foreign funding of religious groups.

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said the residence permits of about 40 imams are under review.

"Political Islam's parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country", said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who, in a previous job as minister in charge of integration, steered the Islam bill into law. The photos depicted boys wearing military uniforms, marching, saluting and carrying Turkish flags in a reenactment of the 1915-16 battle of Gallipoli, which saw the defeat of the allied forces by the Turks during World War I.

Their "corpses" were then lined up and draped in the flags.

The imams are said to be connected to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations, or ATIB, which is a branch of Turkey government's religious affairs agency.

ATIB itself condemned the photos at the time, calling the event "highly regrettable" and saying it was "called off before it had even ended".

"The aim is to marginalize the Muslim communities and gain political benefits", Kalın wrote on his Twitter account.

A spokesperson for Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's said the decision "is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country".

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"The Austrian government's ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence", Ibrahim Kalin tweeted.

"This is just the beginning", far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache told the news conference held by four Cabinet members.

Both Kurz, of the centre-right People's Party (OeVP) and the FPOe made immigration and integration major themes in their election campaigns past year.

He added: 'If these measures aren't enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there'. He added that the government's powers to intervene "were not sufficiently used" in the past.

Relations were also strained by Kurz's staunch opposition to Turkey's bid to join the European Union and the government's programme which pledged Vienna would not agree to Ankara joining the bloc.

"He's throwing his weight around and making a scene", Erdoğan went on.

A nation of about 8.8 million people, Austria has a large Muslim community - about 700,000 people, and the majority is of Turkish origin.

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