Austria to Expel up to 60 Imams, Close 7 Mosques

Austria said Friday it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and would shut down seven mosques as part of a crackdown on “political Islam”, triggering impotent fury in Ankara.

“The circle of people possibly affected by these measures – the pool that we’re talking about – comprises around 60 imams,” said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the nationalist Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government.

Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet.

The interior minister added that the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.

The ministry said 40 of them had an active application for extending their residency and that a number of these had already been referred to immigration authorities, where a process for expelling them was underway.

Once family members were taken into account, a total of 150 people risked losing their right to residence, Kickl told a Vienna press conference.

Predictably, Ankara denounced the move.

“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”, presidential…

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