Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday lambasted Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz for his government’s decision to shut down seven mosques and expel 40 imams from the country, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
“I am afraid that the steps by the Austrian prime minister will take the world to a crusader-crescent war,” Erdoğan said during an iftar dinner held in Istanbul.
“The West must be careful about this kind of man,” he added.
Kurz announced on Friday that Austria would close seven mosques and expel an unspecified number of imams under a law passed in 2015 that forbids foreign sponsorship of mosques and their clergy.
The Turkish president underlined that Ankara would respond to Vienna’s move.
One of the mosques to be closed belongs to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Association (ATİB), Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl said, adding that the residence permits of 40 imams from ATİB, which is close to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), were under scrutiny.
According to Kickl, the residence permits of two imams had been already revoked and five imams had failed to receive residence permits when they first applied.
Kurz said the decision to close the Turkish mosque was made after children’s impersonation of soldiers and martyrs inside the mosque during a play telling the story of the Gallipoli War.
Photos of the play were published in the media in April, sparking an angry reaction from Kurz.
“Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country,” Kurz said at the time.
Aide to the Turkish president İbrahim Kalın reacted to Kurz’s announcement via Twitter, saying that the decision “is a reflection of the Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave in this country.”
“It is an attempt to target Muslim communities for the sake of scoring cheap political points,” Kalın tweeted.
“Efforts to normalize Islamophobia and racism must be rejected under all circumstances,” he added.