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First foreign-funded imam thrown out of Austria

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A mosque in Telfs, Austria. Photo: Hafelekar/Wikimedia
12:40 CET+01:00
Austria, which was accused last year of becoming a centre for terrorism after failing to tackle Muslim extremism, has moved this week to throw out its first foreign-funded imam.

Imam Yakup Aynagoz, whose salary is paid by Turkey and who was until now an imam at the Ahi Evran mosque in St Veit an der Gölsen in Lower Austria, was ordered to leave the country within seven days after his visa was not extended.

The controversial new law on Islam was introduced in February last year following allegations that Austria had allowed extremism to gain root in the country.

The claim was backed up by a number of high-profile defections of its citizens to join Islamic State militants, including two schoolgirls who became poster girls for the jihad. Samra Kesinovic, 17, and Sabina Selimovic, 16, disappeared in April 2014 and are believed to have died in Syria after being married to fighters in the Isis stronghold of Raqqa.

In Austria, hundreds of mosques and Muslim organisations across the country are funded by foreign governments including Saudi Arabia, which in turn were demanding the right to be allowed to select the imam. They often imported people directly from the Middle East with little understanding of European culture and no knowledge of the German language.

Numerous news reports exposed how these organisations were not always teaching European values. It included for example Vienna’s Saudi School - a high-profile private school for Islamic immigrants from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East - that was found to be teaching conspiracy theories and anti-Semitism to children.

It also included clerics like Ebu Tejma who was suspected of recruiting hundreds of Europeans to join the jihad for Isis. When he was arrested he was found to be living in a flat with his pregnant wife and five children where cupboards were stuffed with cash and jewellery, even though he was officially unemployed and claiming benefits.

The new law requires imams to speak German so as to render their messages more accessible and transparent, and allow for a deeper integration of Islam into Austrian society. If the nearly 440 Muslim organisations in the country want to continue receiving official licensing, they must now demonstrate a "positive approach towards society and the state".

Austria's Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz, who was behind the new law said: "We want a future in which increasing numbers of imams have grown up in Austria speaking German, and can in that way serve as positive examples for young Muslims."

The first of the imams to leave the country was sent home this week despite an angry response from his followers and reproaches from Islamic groups. The Austrian constitutional court claimed that the fact the law only applied to Muslims was discrimination. He had been told the week before to leave the country.

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While that case is being investigated, another 65 imams have been told that their visas will not be renewed, and under the current rules that leaves them with little chance to extend their stay in the country.

Story courtesy of Central European News.

 

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