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Austrian Muslims protest shuting down of mosques, expelling imams

A great number of Austrian demonstrator gathered to condemn the Austrian government for the decision to shut down seven mosques and expelling religious official, also stressing that they were absolutely opposed to closing the mosques and the expulsion of imams.

Austrian NGOs, writers and activists are blasting the government's decision to shut down seven mosques and expel scores of imams.

"We condemn the Austrian government for the decision to shut down seven mosques, as we are absolutely opposed to closing the mosques and the expulsion of imams," Michael Probsting, a well-known Austrian activist, told Anadolu Agency.

"Austria's 'law on Islam' [Islamgesetz] is at the center of many troubles. Many NGOs protested this legislation before 2015, when it was being debated," Probsting said.

In 2015, when current Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was minister for Europe, integration and foreign affairs, he backed the Islamgesetz legislation, which, among other things, bans the foreign funding of mosques and imams.

"The closing of seven mosques, the expelling of more than 40 imams, and the abolition of the Arab Cultural Council are the biggest attack on the Muslim community in Austria," said a statement by Linkswende, an anti-racist civil society group.

Writer and human rights activist Wilhelm Langthaler also said: "Chancellor Kurz and Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache are denigrating a religion that is part of Austria and campaigning against Islam."

Kurz said last week that the move came as part of a crackdown on so-called "political Islam".

Under the move, spurred by an Interior Ministry and Office of Religious Affairs probe, seven mosques are to be shut down -- one of them belonging to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association (ATIB) -- and 40 imams expelled on the grounds of being foreign funded.

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