German media outlets and politicians piled pressure on the Turkish Muslim community in the country for their links to Turkey, as the country debates its own version of Islam, a notion rejected by the community.
A conference in Cologne by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) last week was in the headlines in German media yesterday. Quoting Green politician Volker Beck, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper said DİTİB's "renewal" was "a joke," referring to statements by officials of this influential Turkish Muslim body that runs several mosques in Germany.
Releasing a statement earlier this week, DİTİB officials 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 on behalf of Turkey.
DİTİB announced Monday that in the board members' meeting held on Jan. 4, it elected a new board chairman and aimed to "appease the debate that has been continuing for almost three years." 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."
Using rhetoric amounting to anti-Muslim sentiment common in Europe nowadays, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that "Islamists" also took part in the DİTİB meeting and participants rejected "German Islam."
The DİTİB stated earlier that the concepts of liberal, conservative and secular German Islam that were settled within the framework of the Islamic Conference organized by the German government do not reflect the realities of Islam in the mosques. The statement was referring to the German Islam Conference, organized for over a decade by the German Interior Ministry. The controversial event is viewed as an instance of a fait accompli by Germany to intervene in the religious life of Muslims in the country where far-right movements are gaining momentum. Markus Grübel, a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany lawmaker, told Stuttgarter Zeitung that Islam practiced by Muslims living in Germany "must respect German values."
European countries' push for more control on the faith of migrant communities, especially amid an influx of refugees from Muslim countries in recent years, often faces backlash. Muslims regard the "German Islam" project and similar moves as an attempt to force assimilation and put pressure on foreign-born residents or people from foreign-born families.