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Erdogan denounces Austrian decision to close mosques

AFP  |  Istanbul 

Recep Erdogan has strongly criticised Austria's move to close mosques and expel Turkish-funded imams, slamming the decision as anti-Islamic and promising a response.

"These measures taken by the Austrian are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent," Erdogan said yesterday in a speech in

The crescent is a symbol associated with Islam.

His comments came the day after the announced it could expel up to 60 Turkish-funded imams and their families and would shut down seven mosques as part of a crackdown on "political Islam", triggering fury in

of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), the junior in Austria's coalition government said the move concerned imams with alleged links to the Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations (ATIB) organisation, a branch of Turkey's religious affairs agency

Kickl added the government suspects them of contravening a ban on foreign funding of religious office holders. A Turkish had on Friday described the Austrian move as "a reflection of the anti-Islam, racist and discriminatory populist wave in this country".

However, other European far-right leaders welcomed the announcement.

Even Austria's opposition parties were broadly supportive of Friday's announcement, with the centre-left Social Democrats calling it "the first sensible thing this government's done".

But the pointed out it could serve as a propaganda victory for the

Erdogan, speaking yesterday, said: "They say they're going to kick our religious men out of Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?" "That means we're going to have to do something," he added without elaborating. Around 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals.

Relations between and have been strained since a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016 which was followed by a wave of arrests.

Erdogan's speech comes in the run-up to presidential and legislative elections on June 24 in which he faces stiff opposition.

The has banned Turkish officials from holding meetings in the country ahead of the polls.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, June 10 2018. 04:55 IST