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Austrian Muslims denounce government mosque clampdown

The Austrian government has decided to shut down seven mosques and expel Turkish-funded imams.

Austria's main federation of Muslim residents (IGGiOe) has expressed concerns over Vienna's announcement of shutting down seven mosques and expelling Turkish-funded imams.

Vienna wants to "discredit the religious community," Ibrahim Olgun, president of IGGiOe group, said on Sunday.

The policy was not "appropriate to control political Islam" and "will lead ultimately to a weakening of structures within the Muslim community in Austria", he added.

Olgun also criticised the government for not informing the federation of the measures in advance and for unveiling them on the final Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. 

"Solutions should be worked out together around a table rather than unilaterally on the backs of the Muslim minority," said IGGiOe, which is to hold its own audit of mosques and personnel affected by the policy before requesting a meeting with the ministry of culture.

At a press conference on Friday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government is shutting down a Turkish mosque and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community, which runs six mosques.

The Austrian government's actions stem from a 2015 law, which bans foreign funding of religious groups and required Muslim societies to have "a positive fundamental view towards [Austria's] state and society".

'War between the cross and the crescent'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday strongly criticised the move as anti-Islamic and promised a response.

He said, "These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent."

Up to 60 Imams and their families could be expelled, with Vienna saying they are financed by Ankara, contravening a ban on foreign finance of religious organisations. Two imams have had pending requests for residence permit renewals turned down.

Some of Austria's opposition parties have been broadly supportive of the move, with the centre-left Social Democrats calling it "the first sensible thing this government's done".

Around 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals.


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