In Germany, the Turkish community remains closely linked to Erdogan

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Very present in Germany, the Turkish community has kept many links with Ankara, which delegates its own imams to it.

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Very present in Germany, the Turkish community has kept many links with Ankara, which delegates its own imams to it.

© AFP

Very present in Germany, the Turkish community has kept many links with Ankara, which delegates its own imams to it.


The concrete and glass building opens up to the sky modeled on the Sydney Opera House, Australia. Two minarets dominate the district. The Great Mosque of Cologne can accommodate up to 1,200 worshipers. When it was inaugurated in September 2018, 20,000 people gathered on the forecourt. That day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the trip. “We are your soldiers, you are our commander!” : it was him that the crowd had come to cheer. The Ditib (Turkish-Islamic Union of Religious Affairs), which manages the mosque, is an official branch of the Diyanet, the Turkish government’s religious affairs administration. No German politician, no representative of the civilian population of Cologne was invited. As if the mosque was a territorial annex of Turkey.

Before the refugee crisis and the arrival of a population of believers from the Arab world, nearly 70% of Germany’s 4.7 million Muslims were Turkish or of Turkish descent. We are now talking about one believer in two. But the Ditib still manages 900 communities in the big cities, which attract the most faithful. Four hundred others depend on the Millî Görüs organization, close to Erdogan’s party. In these mosques, the religious are linked to the Diyanet, who trains them and pays them. Only 10% of the imams of Ditib or Millî Görüs grew up in Germany. The others are dispatched there at Ankara’s request, often without even speaking German.

The “lobby” under surveillance

Thus Erdogan maintains his “lobby” in Germany, point out the intelligence services, which have placed Millî Görüs under surveillance in several Länder. There is no lack of proof: mosques organize parties with parades of children in uniform when Turkey wins military victories; imams spy on their own followers and denounce to the Diyanet those who appear close to the opposition. German intelligence has also noted in recent years the appearance in parishes of “Green Wolves” (Islamists): activists of the far-right movement Ülkücü (Gray Wolves), ultranationalist. The alliance between the AKP (ruling Islamo-conservative party) and the far-right MHP party in the Turkish Parliament encourages these new missionaries to expand their networks in Germany.

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“With the Ditib also there is a lot of mistrust”, we note at the Ministry of the Interior. For ten years, Muslim theology can be studied at university. But these German-language courses are boycotted by the Ditib, which recruits its imams from graduates of Turkish universities. The organization, unlike other Muslim associations (Moroccan or Bosnian), also refused to recognize this course, which, opened in the spring at the University of Osnabrück, will make it possible to train imams entirely on German soil. A year ago, the Ditib opened a religious seminary in western Germany: of the first 22 students, 20 had previously completed training in Turkey.

An Islam against Salafism

These “imported imams”, disconnected from the German reality, present a double danger according to Serap Güler, Secretary of State for Integration in North Rhine-Westphalia, and close advisor to the president of the CDU (Christian Union). Democrat), Armin Laschet. In addition to their loyalty to Ankara and the cult of Erdogan’s personality, they advocate an “Islam of the past”, not necessarily more conservative but old-fashioned, which is finding less and less echo with young people in the second or second grade. the third generation.

“Currently, there is only one religious group that speaks good German, which knows the needs of young people and above all which is able to contact them on social networks, and that is radical Salafism!”, Exposes Ms. Güler. His Land of Rhineland has developed programs to fish out young believers in search of a more modern spirituality.

The CDU has created a regional branch, the Union of Diversity (Union der Vielfalt), in which Muslims who want to get involved in the field in Germany, far from the codes of Erdogan’s Turkey, find their place. But it remains a very local initiative.

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