Turkey flays Austria over imam expulsions, closure of mosques

Exterior view taken on June 8, 2018 shows the plaque of the "Nizam-i Alem" mosque in Vienna that is part of seven mosques that the Austrian government announced they would shut down. (AFP)
Updated 09 June 2018

Turkey flays Austria over imam expulsions, closure of mosques

  • Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said that 150 people including the imams and their families risked losing their right to residence
  • The Austrian government’s ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles

ANKARA: Turkey’s presidential spokesman on Friday lambasted Austria’s decision to expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and shut seven mosques as an “anti-Islam” and “racist” move.
“Austria’s decision to close down seven mosques and deport imams with a lame excuse is a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country,” Ibrahim Kalin said after Vienna announced the move in a crackdown on “political Islam.”
“It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points,” Kalin said on Twitter.
Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said that 150 people including the imams and their families risked losing their right to residence.
The clampdown comes after Austria’s religious affairs authority investigated images published in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead and reenacting the World War I battle of Gallipoli.
“Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalization have no place in our country,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ruling center-right People’s Party said.
Kalin, spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, suggested the decision was part of efforts to “normalize Islamophobia and racism,” which he said must be rejected.
“The Austrian government’s ideologically charged practices are in violation of universal legal principles, social integration policies, minority rights and the ethics of coexistence,” Kalin said.
During the Turkish referendum campaign last year on expanding the president’s powers, tensions were high between Vienna and Ankara after Austria said it would not allow campaign-related events.
Relations were also strained by Kurz’s staunch opposition to Turkey’s bid to join the European Union and the government’s program which pledged Vienna would not agree to Ankara joining the bloc.


Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

Updated 55 sec ago

Iranian wedding party fueled new COVID-19 surge, President Rouhani says

DUBAI: A wedding party contributed to a new surge in coronavirus infections in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday but insisted the country had no option but to keep its economy open despite warnings of a second wave of the epidemic.
Iran, which has been gradually relaxing its lockdown since mid-April, has reported a sharp rise of new daily infections in recent days. Thursday’s toll of 3,574 new cases was the highest since February, when the outbreak was first reported.
“At one location, we witnessed a peak in this epidemic, the source of which was a wedding that caused problems for the people, health workers and losses to the economy and the country’s health system,” Rouhani said on state TV. He did not say when or where the wedding took place.
New cases dipped to 2,886 on Friday, bringing Iran’s total cases to more than 167,000, with over 8,000 deaths.
Health officials have been warning of a second wave of the outbreak, but say a reason for the surge in new cases could be wider testing. One official said about 70% of the new cases in Tehran were among those who had traveled outside the capital in recent days.
Iran has been struggling to curb the spread of COVID-19 but authorities are concerned that measures to limit public and economic life to contain the virus could wreck an already economy already reeling under international sanctions.
“In these circumstances, we have no other choice — that is, there is no second option,” Rouhani added. “We have to work, our factories have to be active, our shops have to be open, and there has to be movement in the country as far as it is necessary.”
Iranian universities reopened on Saturday after being closed for more than three and a half months, state media reported. Nurseries will reopen in a week’s time, when Qur'an and languages classes will also resume, Rouhani said.