Germany's Turkish-Muslim community on Wednesday called on authorities to take stronger action against far-right extremists amid a growing number of threats and attacks targeting mosques and community institutions.
Kazım Türkmen, the chairman of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), underlined that despite an increase in anti-Muslim crimes in recent years, perpetrators often go unpunished.
"If perpetrators are not brought to justice, if they are not held accountable, it would not be possible to stop these attacks," he said at a news conference in Cologne.
A bomb threat sent to the DİTİB on Tuesday forced an evacuation of Germany's largest mosque in Cologne, which is run by the group.
After searching the complex with bomb-sniffing dogs, the police found no bomb and the area was deemed safe.
Germany has witnessed growing Islamophobia in recent years triggered by the propaganda of far-right parties. More than 100 mosques and religious institutions were attacked in 2018.
Police recorded 813 hate crimes against Muslims last year, including insults, threatening letters and physical assaults. At least 54 Muslims were injured in the attacks.
Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Among the country's nearly 4.7 million Muslims, 3 million are of Turkish descent.
Meanwhile, it was reported yesterday that the DİTİB will start training its imams in Germany.
Following criticism regarding the large number of imams coming from Turkey, who some claim represent the Turkish government, DİTİB decided to provide imams from within Germany. The main goal behind the move is to increase the number of imams trained in Germany and reduce the number being provided by Turkey.
It was also reported that the courses for imams will last two years, and all the courses will be provided with the DİTİB's own equity. The first two months of the training is expected to be the preparation period, which will be followed by training in the mosques. Some 70 students will be accepted each year to be trained as imams, and the training will be conducted in German. People raised in Germany and then received an education in theology in either Turkey or Germany are eligible to apply for the courses.
The DİTİB has a total of 857 mosques in Germany, where almost a thousand imams work. Most of the imams are appointed by Turkey and after working for four years in Germany, return back to Turkey. The salaries of the DİTİB imams, however, are being paid by Turkey.
The Cologne-based DİTİB 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.
Germany, a country of over 81 million people, has the second-largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France. Many Germans of Turkish descent are second and third-generation descendants of Turkish immigrants who moved to the country during the 1960s.