June 8, 2018

AUSTRIA: Austria Said On Friday It Will Expel Up To 60 Turkish-Funded Imams And Their Families And Would Shut Down Seven Mosques As Part Of A Crackdown On "Political Islam".

The Local, Austria
written by AFP staff
Friday June 8, 2018

Austria said on Friday it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and would shut down seven mosques as part of a crackdown on "political Islam", triggering fury in Ankara.

"The circle of people possibly affected by these measures - the pool that we're talking about - comprises around 60 imams," said Interior Minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), the junior partner in Austria's coalition government.

Kickl was referring to imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey's religious affairs agency Diyanet.

The interior minister added that the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.

The ministry said 40 of them had an active application for extending their residency and that a number of these had already been referred to immigration authorities, where a process for expelling them was underway.

Once family members were taken into account, a total 150 people risked losing their right to residence, Kickl told a Vienna press conference.

Ankara quickly denounced the 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", presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter.

However other European far-right leaders welcomed the announcement.

Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French Front National, said on Twitter: "Austria is taking things in hand and showing that 'when you want to, you can!'"

Matteo Salvini, head of Italy's League and interior minister in the new government, also tweeted his approval,saying: "Those who exploit their faith to endanger a country's security should be expelled!"

'Laughable' claims

Seven mosques will also be shut after an investigation by Austria's religious affairs authority sparked by images which emerged in April of children in a Turkish-backed mosque playing dead and re-enacting the World War
I battle of Gallipoli.

"Parallel societies, political Islam and radicalisation have no place in our country," said Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of the ruling centre-right People's Party.

The photos of children, published by the Falter weekly, showed the young boys in camouflage uniforms marching, saluting, waving Turkish flags and then playing dead.

Their "corpses" were then lined up and draped in the flags.

The mosque in question was run by ATIB.

ATIB itself condemned the photos at the time, calling the event "highly regrettable" and saying it was "called off before it had even ended".

One of the mosques targeted by Friday's measure was in the Favoriten district of Vienna.

The government said it had been operating illegally and that it was under the influence of the far-right Turkish political movement, the Grey Wolves.

Worshippers arriving for Friday prayers were met with a sign on the door reading "closed" in Turkish and German.

Kursant, a 26-year-old, told AFP: "I've been coming to this mosque frequently since I was a child, I've had lessons here, I've never heard anyone at the mosque, any of the employees, express any Salafist opinions. That's laughable."

Six other mosques are being closed down, three in Vienna, two in Upper Austria and one in Carinthia.

All but one of the mosques affected belong to the "Arab Religious Association," according to the government.

'Making a scene'

Even Austria's opposition parties were broadly supportive of Friday's announcement, with the centre-left Social Democrats calling it "the first sensible thing this government's done".

However the Green Party pointed out it could serve as a propaganda victory for the Turkish government.

Turkey's relations with Austria have long been strained, with Kurz calling on the European Union to break off negotiations on Ankara joining the bloc and banning Turkish politicians from campaigning in Austria for upcoming elections.

Around 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals.

Last week Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked Kurz, saying: "This immoral chancellor has a problem with us".

"He's throwing his weight around and making a scene," Erdogan went on.

Both Kurz, of the centre-right People's Party (ÖVP) and the FPÖ made immigration and integration major themes in their election campaigns last year.

The topic had been pushed up the political agenda by the migrant crisis of 2015-16, which saw more than 150,000 people seek asylum in the country of 8.7 million.

In Friday's press conference Kurz was keen to emphasise that the action was being taken under legislation to regulate Islamic associations that he himself brought in as a minister in the previous government and which had so far -- in his opinion -- not been used often enough.


Kurdistan24 News
written by Ari Khalidi
Saturday March 10, 2018

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Declaring his readiness to fight personally in the Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria if the army announced a war effort, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a Saturday rally in the Mediterranean city of Mersin made a hand gesture racist Turkish supremacists use.

“Together,” Erdogan urged thousands of his supporters while raising his index and pinky fingers in the air with the middle and ring ones firmly pressed on the thumb to repeat after him: “one nation, one flag, one homeland, one state.”

The gesture is known as the “Grey Wolf sign” in Turkey.

The Grey Wolves are an organization with a violent past, including murders, assassinations, and involvement in massacres against non-Muslim minorities, Alevis, the Kurds, and leftists in the 1970s.

As they chanted along at the nationally televised event, Erdogan immediately went on to make the “Rabia sign” of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt, a group Ankara supports against Cairo’s military-rooted leadership that overthrew the country’s democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood member, in 2013.

It was not strange for the Turks to see Erdogan making the Rabia salute. Indeed, he has rebranded the raised four fingers and folded thumb as one of his own, often repeating the slogan “one nation, one flag, one homeland, one state” to assign a meaning to each finger.

However, seeing him salute the crowd with the ultra-nationalist gesture was a first, as he teams up with the far-right junior opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to secure victory in the upcoming local, parliamentary, and presidential elections set for 2019.

Later, at the provincial convention of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the same city, he threatened to invade all of Syrian Kurdistan after Afrin which has been under attack by the Turkish military and its Free Syrian Army (FSA) proxies.

He designated the population centers of Manbij, Kobani, Tel Abyad, Ras al-Ayn, and Qamishli as targets, despite a potential military confrontation with the US whose troops continue to serve along Kurdish forces in the anti-Islamic State (IS) campaign.

He criticized NATO for what he said was not standing up to “terrorism.”

“[There are] NATO members in Syria. In fact, if they had the power, they would very openly be confronting us. But, they dare not,” he said in words apparently referring to the US which keeps bases in the Kurdish region of Syria which he vowed to capture.

“Chief, take us to Afrin,” AKP supporters chanted.

“We shall go there [enlist] together when the military command gives the order of war effort. I will be in front of you because we believe in something superior,” the Turkish President said, referring to martyrdom.

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