Turkey responds to Austria closing foreign-funded mosques

After Austria’s right-wing government announced a plan to close seven mosques they believed to be being illegally foreign-funded and expel up to 60 imams working for a branch of the Turkish state on Friday, Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın was among the quickest to condemn the move.

“Austria’s decision to close seven mosques and expel imams is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country. It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points,” Kalın tweeted.

“The Austrian government’s ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of co-existence. Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances.”

In the Turkish version of his tweets, Kalın added that the planned expulsions were being carried out on the basis of a pathetic excuse.

The new measures were introduced in reaction to a scandal in April in which children at a Turkish-backed mosque enacted their “martyrdom” at the battle of Gallipoli.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said that “parallel societies, political Islam, and radicalisation” has no place in Austrian society.

Kurz oversaw the introduction of a ban on the foreign funding of religious groups in 2015, alongside a law requiring Muslim groups to have a positive view of Austria.

600,000 Muslims live in Austria, and a large majority of them are of Turkish origin. They voted overwhelmingly for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the last elections in November 2015.

After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced new elections set for June 24, Austria announced that it would not allow any campaigning for the Turkish elections to take place on its soil.