Austria Plans On Shutting Down Seven Mosques And Expelling Imams

On Friday, 8th June, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz represented the Austrian government and announced their plans to close down seven mosques and expel around 60 imams from the country. The move was a push by the Austrian government against radical Islam and the foreign funding of religious groups appearing within the society of Austria.

Grounded with the 2015 law which required Muslim organizations to express a “positive fundamental view” towards Austria as a whole, Sebastian Kurz discouraged the presence of “parallel societies, political Islam, and radicalization” in society. The vice-chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache shed some light on this crackdown by commenting that the plans were ‘just the beginning’.

Unsurprisingly, Turkey did not favour the move. A spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the actions taken by Austria is racist and poses as a sort of discrimination to the country. Countering the accusation, Austria denied any move targeting Muslims in general. On the contrary, Austria said the attacks were directed at mosques who were politicised and have activities acting against the country’s constitution.

Six of the seven mosques are suspected to have links with the Islamic extremism. They are run by an organization called the Arab Religious Community. The Austrian Government had also ordered the shutting down of the organization. The Austrian Government suspected the group of promoting the hardline Salafi school of Islam with extremists such as ISIL and Al-Qaeda as their predecessors. Meanwhile, the seventh mosque was suspected to have associations with the Grey Wolves, which is a Turkish ultranationalist organization.

The crackdown resulted from images, of children being made to wear Turkish army uniforms and saluting the Turkish flag inside the mosque. The images which emerged this year were taken inside the mosque in the district of Vienna Favoriten. Austrian interior minister, Herbert Kickl reported the deportations orders of two imams and the investigations of another 60 who are faced with the possibility of expulsion, along with their family members. Amongst those who were facing investigations, 40 of them were members of the Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe (ATIB). The association was a closely linked group to the Turkish government with suspected links with the Grey Wolves.

The new coalition government came into power after Europe’s migration crisis. Their solid stance reflected their promises to prevent another influx and limiting the benefits for new immigrants and refugees. The question that appeared from the move is whether the step taken is seen to be too harsh as not only the religious buildings are affected, but many imams are involved in the crackdown. Are there not any alternatives for the government to uphold their promises? As a countering argument, the Austria Government might be taking this harsh step as a precautionary measure after being affected with the European migration crisis.

However, some may argue that the Austrian Government should look to other alternatives as the extreme move might bring adverse effects in the future. The Government should give a more detailed statement to their plan, following other plans to appease the Muslim community in the Austria society. A sustainable move should be meticulously planned out in favour of the future peaceful living in the society.

Cherie Gan