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Turkey slams 'racist', 'anti-Islam' Austria following mosque closures

Erdogan's spokesperson took to Twitter to slam the move [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 June, 2018

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Turkey's presidential spokesperson has fired back at Austria over the closure of Turkish-linked mosques, and potential deportation of dozens of Muslim imams.
Turkey has slammed Austria's government as "racist" and "anti-Islam", after Vienna announced that a number of foreign-linked mosques would be closed in the country.

Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, fired back at Austria, shortly after Vienna's far-right interior minister announced a crackdown on "political Islam" in the country.
Among the measures that could be taken by Austria's interior ministry is the closure of seven mosques and deportation of 60 imams.

At least some of these are part of the Ankara-linked Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association.

"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," Kalin said on Twitter.

"It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points."

Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, of the far-right Freedom Party, told a press conference earlier on Friday that at least 150 people are expected to be expelled from Austria and seven mosques shuttered, in the government's sweep of foreign-funded and "political Islamist" mosques.

"The circle of people possibly affected by these measures - the pool that we're talking about - comprises around 60 imams," Kickl said, whose far-right party is a junior partner in the right-wing government.

Imams from the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association are already being expelled from Austria, while the Arab Religious Community - which runs six mosques - is also being dissolved.

The actions are based on a 2015 law banning foreign funding of religious communities and organisations in Austria.

Kalin said these actions would "normalise Islamophobia and racism".

The latest actions follow laws banning the Muslim niqab and a potential ban on girls aged under-10 from wearing the hijab.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the right-wing People's Party also backed the interior ministry's actions.

"Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country," he said.

Five imams were denied permits to preach in the country, while two other permits have been revoked.

Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the Freedom Party said these steps are a "first significant and necessary step in the right direction", and warned more action could be taken against foreign-funded or political Islamist organisations.
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"If these measures aren't enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there," he said.

The announcement comes after an Austrian magazine, published images showing young boys at a Vienna mosque - which is due to be closed - wearing camouflage uniforms, saluting, marching and waving the Turkish flag.

They are then shown to play dead with Turkish flags draped over their "bodies".  

The scenes are supposed to be a representation of the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War, when Ottoman troops fought off a UK-led offensive on Turkish shores.

The Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association said the event was "highly regrettable" and "called off before it had even ended".

Austria's right-wing government has promised to enact tougher restrictions on immigration and a crackdown on political Islam in the country.

Vienna has been at loggerheads with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist government, and urged the EU to call off negotiations regarding Ankara's possible accession the European bloc.

Austria also banned the Turkish economy minister from attending a pro-Ankara rally in Vienna last year.

Austria's government is one of the most right-wing administrations in the whole of the EU.

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