According to a report in the Salzburger Nachrichten paper the Islamic Federation has already started to build a private Turkish-language school for imams in Austria – which would effectively be run by the Turkish state, with all lessons taught in Turkish, and German offered as a foreign language option.
There are also plans to build similar schools in Strasbourg, France and in New Jersey, USA.
A pre-existing training centre in Vienna-Simmering would be an ideal location, according to Islamic Federation spokesman Yakup Geçgel. He said that the plan would have been to open the school in the autumn, but that there have been delays in the construction. The school would have capacity for around 80 students. Upon completing their exams the students would get certificates from the Turkish school board.
Kurz has said that imams should be taught in public, transparent training courses, run by the Austrian government.
Imam Hatip schools are vocational high schools in Turkey which educate future Imam (prayer leaders) and Islamic preachers. "The basic idea is that we train imams in Austria and so we will get better imams," Geçgel said. He denied that the school was being financed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP party, and said that it would be a fee-paying school and would also receive money from the Islamic Federation.
The Islamic Federation coordinates the Milli-Görüs religious movement in Austria, which is controversial because of its links with Turkish nationalists. In Germany, Milli-Görüs has been under observation because of its “anti-democratic” nature. “In Germany a school like this would never be allowed to be built,” an Islamic expert told the Salzburger Nachrichten.
Currently, imams in Austria receive their training at local universities, and are taught in German.
Erdogan and Kurz to meet?
This Thursday Erdoğan will make a speech at Vienna's Albert-Schultz Ice Rink. His visit is being seen as a controversial election rally and a bid to win oversees votes ahead of presidential elections in August.
Turkey only recently allowed Turks living outside the country to vote. According to the media service centre New Austrians, there are around 90,000 Turkish citizens living in Austria who were old enough to vote.
Erdogan may meet with Kurz on Friday, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The ministry said Kurz would insist on Austria's standpoint on integration. Kurz has already made his opinions clear to his Turkish counterpart, Ahmed Davutoglu, before Erdogan's trip.