The Austrian government has announced the closure of at least seven mosques and has started procedures to expel 53 imams as part of its previously-announced policy to crack down on “political Islam”—and which is likely to lead to more Muslims leaving the central European state.
According to an official statement on the website of the Austrian Federal Government, the “first decisions have been taken in the fight against political Islam.”
“The Federal Government announced the first consequences of the trials of allegations against mosques and religious communities, which are closely related to radical political Islam,” the statement said.
“Austria is a land of diversity, where religious freedom is at a high premium, but at the same time it is plain that we are a constitutional state, which needs legal rules to organize our coexistence, and that radicalization and political Islam have no place in our country,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said at a press conference held at the Federal Chancellery.
He said that following the 2015 so-called “Islamic law,” his government had increased the staff and ability of the “Kultursamt” (Office of Culture) and that office had been given the power to “dissolve a [religious] commune” along with the right of the Ministry of the Interior to “identify imams who have violated the law.”
“We are making use of this right for the first time,” Chancellor Kurz said, saying that with immediate effect the operation of seven mosques were being banned.”
Included in this number is a mosque closely affiliated with the Turkish nationalist “Gray Wolves” organization.
Interior Minister Herbert Kickl told the press conference that the “rejection of the core values ??of personal freedom, democracy and our rule of law was intrinsic to political Islam.”
Kickl pointed out that the “Islamic law prohibits religious communities from raising funds from abroad,” and that information from the Ministry of Culture, indicated that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria (ATIB) was in breach of this rule.
“Therefore, [the ATIB-affiliated] imams’ residence permits have been reviewed by the Settlement and Residence Authorities,” he continued. “Granting them further resident permits would be in violation of the Islamic law.”
There are currently 11 cases under investigation, while another two have “already received negative opinions,” with another 40 ATIB imams who also likely fall under the violation of prohibited foreign financing.
Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache concluded the press conference by saying that this was only the beginning of these actions.
“This phenomenon is not limited to Vienna, but also occurs in other states and mainly in the urban areas,” he said.
Many of these mosques and Islamic schools have been “subsidized with taxpayers’ money without proper scrutiny and that it is necessary to investigate the dubious flows of funding,” he said.