The Austrian government is to order the closure of seven mosques and expel up to 60 imams in a crackdown on political Islam and Turkish nationalism, it has announced.
“Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country,” Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, said.
Six of the seven mosques are being closed on suspicion of links to Islamic extremism. They are run by an organisation called the Arab Religious Community, which the government has also ordered to be shut down.
This move is rooted in a 2015 law that requires Muslim organizations to express a “positive fundamental view towards [the] state and society” of Austria, and bans foreign funding of religious institutions. “Political Islam’s parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country,” said Kurz.
His vice chancellor, Heinz-Christian Strache, added ominously, “This is just the beginning.”
At the conference, Austrian Culture Minister Gernot Blümel told journalists that the mosques had been shut down because of suspected “extremism.” All the mosques that were shut down were believed to belong to the Salafi tradition, a strict and literalistic school within Islam.
For defenders of the move, Austria’s decision was a necessary stance against radical religious extremism. For its detractors, it was an example of the kind of nationalistic Islamophobia many see as characterizing the current Austrian political climate. Austria is currently controlled by a coalition of the center-right Austrian People’s Party and the far-right, nationalist Freedom Party. Both parties campaigned on anti-immigration platforms. Approximately 600,000 Muslims, mostly of Turkish origin. live in Austria, which has a population of 8.8 million.