President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday strongly criticised Austria’s move to close mosques and expel Turkish-funded imams, criticising the decision as anti-Islamic and promising a response.
(AhlulBayt News Agency) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday strongly criticised Austria’s move to close mosques and expel Turkish-funded imams, criticising the decision as anti-Islamic and promising a response.
“These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent,” Mr Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul.
His comments came the day after the Austrian government announced it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families, and would shut down seven mosques.
The announcement triggered fury in Ankara.
Interior minister Herbert Kickl of the far-right Freedom Party, the junior partner in Austria’s coalition government, said the move concerned imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations organisation, a branch of Turkey’s religious affairs agency Diyanet.
Mr Kickl said his government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders.
A Turkish presidential spokesman had on Friday described the Austrian move as “a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country”.
Erdogan, speaking on Saturday, said: “They say they’re going to kick our religious men out of Austria. Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?
“That means we’re going to have to do something.”
About 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals.
Relations between Ankara and Vienna have been strained since a failed coup in 2016 against Erdogan that was followed by a wave of arrests.
The Austrian government has banned Turkish officials from holding meetings in the country before the polls.