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France Growing Concerned About Turkish Influence on Turkish Diaspora

November 23rd, 2020 12:56

In the wake of the behead­ing of French school-teacher Samuel Paty, US media is report­ing that France is increas­ing­ly about the influ­ence of Turk­ish Islamists on the country’s Turk­ish pop­u­la­tion. Accord­ing to a Bloomberg report, this influ­ence is chan­neled through nation­al­ist groups, reli­gion, and the teach­ing of the Turk­ish language:

The pri­ma­ry dri­ver of Turkey’s out­reach is Diyanet, or Reli­gious Affairs Direc­torate, which Erdo­gan has expand­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly since his AK Par­ty took pow­er in 2002. It pays the salaries of about 150 of the Turk­ish imams in France, or half of the total num­ber of for­eign imams in the coun­try , accord­ing to the French government.

The report goes on to say cite as an exam­ple of reli­gious influ­ence a mosque being built in the French city of Stras­bourg, locat­ed close to the bor­der of Ger­many where Turk­ish influ­ence on its dias­po­ra is the strongest:

The land on which the Eyyub Sul­tan mosque is being built was pur­chased by the Islam­ic Com­mu­ni­ty of Mil­li Gorus. The project is fund­ed by believ­ers, mem­bers from across Europe and also by Chris­tians, accord­ing to its imam, Eyup Sahin, the local leader of Mil­li Gorus. To the north lies a new Turk­ish con­sulate build­ing, and to the west sits a branch of Ditib, the Ger­many-based arm of the Diyanet. It man­ages 270 mosques in France. Ditib was set up in the 1980s to serve Turk­ish immi­grants when Ankara still cham­pi­oned sec­u­lar­ism, while Mil­li Gorus traces its roots back to the 1960s to fos­ter the polit­i­cal Islam that Erdo­gan now sup­ports. Both now rep­re­sent a con­ser­v­a­tive inter­pre­ta­tion of Islam, and have been seek­ing to cater to all Mus­lims, not just the Turk­ish com­mu­ni­ty, said Mas­si­card at Sci­ences Po. For years, France has regard­ed the two orga­ni­za­tions as key part­ners on mat­ters of faith and inte­gra­tion. Events more recent­ly led the author­i­ties to mon­i­tor activ­i­ties, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion.Sahin said Mil­li Gorus has no ties to Erdo­gan or his AK Par­ty. He said he’s in touch with local intel­li­gence offi­cers and has spo­ken out against vio­lence and threats in the name of Islam. Sahin man­ages a train­ing cen­ter for imams and said it’s impor­tant preach­ers under­stand French cul­ture and are able to speak the language.

Read the rest here.

As the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) recent­ly report­ed, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is assert­ing that Turkey’s gov­ern­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) has inten­si­fied its rela­tions with Mil­lî Görüş in Germany.

The Bloomberg arti­cle is also report­ing that French author­i­ties are con­cerned that Turk­ish class­es fund­ed by Turkey allow Erdo­gan to spread influ­ence.” The GIOR recent­ly report­ed on Turk­ish-Ger­man Asso­ci­a­tions protest­ing Turk­ish lan­guage class­es being taught in DITIB mosques by DITIB imams.

The Turk­ish-Islam­ic Union for Reli­gious Affairs, known in Turk­ish as the Diyanet İşl­eri Türk-İsl­am Bir­liği (DITIB), is the French branch of Turkey’s Direc­torate of Reli­gious Affairs or Diyanet. Much like the DITIB branch in Ger­many, the French branch pays the salaries of imams, many of which do not speak French. Ear­li­er this year, France closed the Diyanet’s bank accounts in France. Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, French Pres­i­dent Macron announced he was end­ing a pro­gram that allowed oth­er coun­tries to send cul­tur­al and lan­guage teach­ers, includ­ing imams, to teach in France with­out inter­fer­ence with French author­i­ties. Turkey has not agreed to a new pro­gram that would give French author­i­ties con­trol over cours­es and con­tent, with Macron stat­ing that he wish­es to pre­vent Turkey from feed­ing “a cul­tur­al, reli­gious or iden­ti­ty-relat­ed sep­a­ratism on our Republic’s ground.”