On Friday, the Austrian government announced that it will be closing seven mosques. The Austrian government also plans to expel several imams in a crackdown on “political Islam.” The Austrians are also looking to reduce the practice of religious groups inside Austria receiving funding from foreigners, which they say contributes to the issue of radicalization.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the government is shutting a pro-Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna. The Austrian government is also ordering the dissolution of a group called the Arab Religious Community. That group runs six mosques throughout Austria.
These actions by the Austrian government stem from the passage of a law in 2015 that was designed to stop religious organizations from getting foreign funding. The Austrian Interior Minister, Herbert Kickl, also said that about 40 imams may be expelled from Austria.
These imams all work for ATIB, a group that runs Turkish mosques in Austria. Their immigration papers are being reviewed because the Austrian government believes most of them are receiving foreign funding.
Kickl said that two permits have already been revoked. Five more imams were also denied first-time permits.
The conservative Sebastian Kurz became chancellor of Austria in December. He rose to power through a coalition with the anti-migration Freedom Party.
During last year’s campaign season, both coalition parties called for immigration restrictions. Both parties wanted quicker deportations of asylum-seekers whose requests were denied. Kurz and his coalition partners also campaigned on a platform that included a strong crackdown on radical Islam.
It seems the promised crackdown is now in full effect.
The Austrian government also recently announced plans to ban girls in elementary schools and kindergartens from wearing headscarves, adding to existing restrictions on veils.
Sebastian Kurz told reporters that “Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country.” He also added that the government’s powers to intervene “were not sufficiently used” in past instances.
Friday’s measures are “a first significant and necessary step in the right direction,” said Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom Party’s leader. “If these measures aren’t enough, we will if necessary evaluate the legal situation here or there.”
It seems Austria is now taking a real stance against the de-Westernization of Europe. Along with many other countries in the region, Austrian politicians seem to believe (and are leaning hard on the rhetoric whether they believe it or not) that Islam represents a destabilizing influence to their societies.
People practicing Islam represent about 4% of Austria’s population. Whether that 4% is a real threat or simply a political scapegoat will remain to be seen. For reference, France has about 10% Muslim population. America is at about 1%.