Turkish Islamic union in Germany calls for reducing tensions, returning objectivity

Published 08.01.2019 00:43
emDITIB photo via AA/em
DITIB photo via AA

Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) in Germany called for reducing tensions and returning to "objective issues," referring to a debate in recent years in which the organization was accused of espionage by the German government.

DITIB announced Monday that in the board members' meeting held on Jan. 4, it had elected a new board chairman and aimed to "appease the debate which has been continuing almost three years."

In a press statement, the union said that for the last three years, it has faced excessive and partially-groundless criticism.

"The debate that divides the issue as 'you' and 'us,' and perceives Muslims as opposite and problematic not only hurts Muslims in Germany but also poisons the discussion and community culture that we have," the statement said, adding: "There is an urgent need to reduce tension and return to objective issues."

The debate over DITIB, which currently runs more than 900 mosques in Germany for the country's nearly 5-million-strong Turkish community and other Muslim minority groups, reached its peak when the German government accused the organization of espionage in 2016.

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 (Diyanet) rejected the spying allegations from the beginning, noting that no orders had been sent to DITIB, 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 DITIB to espionage activities.

In its statement Monday, DITIB said it is ready to do its part in order to reduce the tensions, adding that the Diyanet in Ankara will continue to be a spiritual and religious reference for the organization.

In the statement, DITIB stated that the concepts of liberal, conservative and secular German Islam which were settled within the framework of Islamic Conference organized by German Government do not reflect the realities of the Islam in the mosques.

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

"DITIB will continue to be the most powerful and important guarantor of the understanding of moderate Islam based on resources and reason which address all Muslims with all its services, mosques and regional organizations," the statement said.

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

Kazım Türkmen, the religious services counselor of the Berlin embassy, was appointed as the new chairman of the board of directors of DITIB.

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