Court rules against Austria's mosque closures


Austrian authorities acted unlawfully when they ordered the shuttering of six mosques of the Arab Religious Community last year, the Vienna Administrative Court has ruled.

Austria's top religious authority had failed to grant an adequate period of time to remedy alleged problems, according to the court decision that became public on Thursday.

The right-wing government had announced the closure of the mosques last June because of reported Salafist positions that were being preached in one of them.

"The religious authority's defeat once again shows the important corrective role that courts play in times of populism," said Umit Vural, president of the Austrian Islamic Faith Community, a Muslim umbrella organisation.

Religious Affairs Minister Gernot Bluemel of the conservative People's Party (OeVP) said he did not understand the court verdict.

"We will use all options to curb political Islam, its aberrations and radical tendencies in our society," he told Austrian press agency APA.

The religious authority announced an appeal.

Last June, the government coalition between OeVP and the far-right FPOe announced a crackdown against politicised and radical Islam, including clerics who are paid by the Turkish state. The measures included the mosque closures as well as a plan to expel imams who are under scrutiny for possible illegal funding from Turkey.

The Austrian Islamic Faith Community has filed a legal complaint against the expulsions at Austria's Constitutional Court, arguing that the country's Islam Law bans religious groups from receiving foreign money, while other faiths face no such legal restrictions.    (dpa)

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