Germany mulls “mosque tax” on country’s Muslims to curb foreign influence

Published 27.12.2018 17:09
People wait in front of the new mosque in Cologne, Europe's largest, for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open it, in Germany, on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo)
People wait in front of the new mosque in Cologne, Europe's largest, for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to open it, in Germany, on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (AP Photo)

Politicians in Germany called on implementing a "mosque tax" for the country's Muslim population in order to "free the mosques" from the alleged foreign influence.

Members of three coalition parties, the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) supported the initiative.

Thorsten Frei, member of the conservative CDU said in a statement to German newspaper Die Welt that the aim is "Islam in Germany free itself from the influence of foreign states and get a stronger domestic orientation," and described the "mosque tax" as the most important step ahead of this.

Supporting the mosque tax, Michael Frieser from CDU said that their aim is to be a free financing in order to ensure the independence of mosques' communities.

Burkhard Lischka, a lawmaker from center-left SPD described the tax as something which is "worthy of discussion in order to cut the links between Muslim communities in Germany and foreign financing," saying that a mosque tax could help Islam in Germany become more independent.

Lischka argued that the dangers, such as the possibility of external influence and radicalization, would be diminished this way.

Saying that the implementation of the tax has yet to be in time, Lischka added: "We need to work with the states on this issue, since the church tax is the responsibility of the states."

The German government wants to cut the support of Muslim associations who got financial support from abroad, especially those of Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) which currently runs more than 900 mosques in Germany for the country's nearly 5 million Turkish community and other Muslim minority groups.

The German Islam Conference in late November, organized for over a decade by the German Interior Ministry, also raised controversy for its line-up and practices such as serving pork for lunch along with other alternatives.

The Cologne-based DITIB is one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany. It was founded in 1984 as a branch of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Turkey's top religious body. For many years, it was a partner in many government-supported counter-extremism and integration projects.

In 2017, an investigation was launched by the German prosecutor's office against several imams affiliated with the DITIB over spying allegations. German police raided the homes of the four imams in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate on grounds of carrying out espionage on behalf of the Turkish Government against the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the group responsible for masterminding the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey.

The Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB) rejected the spying allegations since the very beginning, noting that no orders had been sent to DİTİB, which is a separate, independent organization.

Contrary to Germany's official accusations, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) in North Rhine-Westphalia found no evidence linking DİTİB to the spying allegations.

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