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Austria Closes 7 Mosques and Seeks to Expel Imams Paid by Turkey

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Since taking office last year, Mr. Kurz’s government has began investigating Muslim organizations suspected of violating the country’s 2015 Islam law. The law aims to prevent any conflict between “thinking of oneself as a pious Muslim and proud Austrian citizen at the same time,” by regulating operations of the Islamic community.

Announcing the first legal consequences of the inquiry on Friday, Mr. Kurz said that the Arabian Cultural and Religious Community would be shut down on suspicion of promoting radical Islam, and that six of the mosques it operates were ordered to cease operations. Three of the mosques are in Vienna, two in the northwest of the country, and one in the south.

A seventh mosque, also in Vienna, that is run by a far-right group known as the Gray Wolves was considered illegal even by the country’s main Islamic organization.

Under the Islam law, Muslim religious organizations are banned from receiving the bulk of their financing from sources outside Austria. But many imams working in those organizations do so through the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation, known by the initials ATIB, and are civil servants of the Turkish government.

Speaking at the news conference, Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said the authorities were reviewing the residence permits of about 40 imams employed by ATIB, and their family members, over concerns they were being paid from abroad. He added that the permits of two others had already been revoked and that Austria had decided not to grant initial visas to five more.


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