The right-wing government in Austria has escalated its hostility toward Muslims in the country by announcing this week that it plans to shut down seven mosques and deport between 40 and 60 Islamic clerics who receive foreign funding.
The coalition government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, said that this is “just the beginning” of its fight against what it sees as “radical Islam,” Reuters reported on Friday.
Kurz’s name might sound familiar, as he’s been mentioned in news stories earlier this week after President Donald Trump’s new ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, praised him in an interview he gave to Breitbart.
Apparently falling under the spell of Kurz’s youthful looks — as much of the media did when he blazed onto the political scene last fall — Grenell called Kurz a “rock star,” adding that he’s a “big fan” while noting that he’d like Kurz to empower European conservatives. He’s since tried to backpedal, tweeting that he definitely wasn’t supporting any particular parties and that he was only trying to support the “silent majority … Led by Trump.”
Absurd. I condemn those comments completely. Don’t put words in my mouth. The idea that I’d endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous. I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority – those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump. https://t.co/DjSX4SL3bf
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) June 4, 2018
One man’s rock-star is another man’s racist, it seems, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman calling Kurz’s new policy an “Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave.”
Of Austria’s 8.8 million people, around 600,000 are Muslims, many of them of Turkish descent. One of the Islamic groups targeted is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria, which has close ties to the Turkish government.
Even before becoming chancellor, Kurz targeted Muslims with a policy he helped craft in 2015 which stipulated that Muslims had a duty to have a positive view of the Austrian state. The law also forbids religious groups from getting foreign funding.
Austia’s move comes on the heels of two other decisions in European countries that crack down on Muslims.
Denmark last week banned the burqa as well as the niqab (face veil) — both items cover the face and are worn by some Muslim women. Only during cold weather or while engaging in activities that require the face to be covered for safety reasons (such as wearing a motorcycle helmet) will being in public with an obscured face be allowed.
Offenders will be fined, and repeat offenders will be jailed up to six months.
Other European countries, such as Belgium, France, and Austria, already have such laws in place.
Norway’s parliament on Thursday voted in favor of banning the same forms of the hijab at schools and universities, calling the face coverings a “suppressive” garment that hinders integration.
Neither the country’s National Union of Students nor the Socialist Left Party (SV) agreed with that assessment, with one SV member saying, “Work on women’s oppression and increased gender equality needs to be strengthened. To introduce a national ban on face-covering garments does not solve the problem of women in Norway today being exposed to negative social control and honor-related violence.”