Turkey’s Growing Influence over Islam in Austria

The selection of an ethnic Turk to lead the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (Islamischen Glaubensgemeinschaft in Österreich, IGGiÖ), the primary representative of Muslims in the country, is being challenged by Muslim groups opposed to Turkey’s growing influence over the practice of Islam in Austria.

Ibrahim Olgun, a 28-year-old Austrian-born Islamic theologian with ties to the Turkish state, was quietly named on June 19 to replace 62-yer-old Fuat Sanac, who stepped down after serving as IGGiÖ president for five years.

Sanac, also a Turk, was reviled by Turkish authorities for helping the Austrian government draft a new Islam Law (Islamgesetz) that aims to promote an “Islam with an Austrian character.” The law, which was promulgated in February 2015, seeks to reduce outside meddling by prohibiting foreign funding for mosques, imams and Muslim organizations in Austria. It also stresses that Austrian law must take precedence over Islamic Sharia law for Muslims living in the country.

Observers worry that Olgun — a member of the Turkey-financed Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria (ATIB), an influential group that has vowed to challenge the Islam Law at Austria’s Constitutional Court — will use his new position both to undermine the Islam Law and to increase further Turkey’s influence over Muslims in Austria.

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About OyiaBrown

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