Prior to becoming Austria’s youngest Chancellor, Sebastian Kurz worked as the minister in charge of integration in 2015. Kurz had spent time working on a bill designed to impose tough laws on Islam. Among the provisions of Kurz’s law was to ban foreign funding of religious groups. It also integrated a duty for Muslim groups to embrace a “positive fundamental view towards Austria’s state and society.”
Fast- forward 2 years later and Chancellor Kurz wields the power to tighten the laws on Muslim immigrants.
Austria’s predominantly right-wing government recently bared its plans to close down seven mosques. In addition, the government wants to deport an estimated number of 40 imams. The government said the purge was “just the beginning” of its drive to eradicate Islamist ideology and shut down foreign funding of these religious groups.
The present government came to power with its campaign to reduce the number of migrants and to curtail benefits for new immigrants and political asylum seekers.
Kurz believes Islam ideology cannot co-exist with the new nationalist ideology:
“Political Islam’s parallel societies and radicalizing tendencies have no place in our country.”
Presently, Austria is home to an estimated 600,000 Muslim immigrants. Most of them are of Turkish origin. In proportion, Austria has a population of 8.8 million people.
Among the mosques that may be shut down include one that is influenced by the Turkish nationalist group, “The Grey Wolves”. According to the government, the mosque has been operating illegally.
Six other mosques which are reportedly owned by an Arab- Muslim group may also be closed by the government.
Vice- Chancellor Heinz- Christian Strache told a group of news reporters that the closure of the mosques was “just the beginning”.
Ibrahim Kalin, a presidential spokesman for the Turkish government, believed that Austria’s hard-line stance toward Muslims was a result of an “Islamophobic, racist, and discriminatory wave”. He further added that Muslim communities were being singled out for political gain:
“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.”
It is also expected that up to 40 imams would be deported on the grounds they could be conduits for foreign money used to fund religious groups.