TurkeyAugust 28 2022, 14:23 pm

President of Turkish-European Lobby Group Meets Top Turkish Religious Official

Kök­sal Kuş, the pres­i­dent of a Turk­ish-Euro­pean lob­by­ing group, says he vis­it­ed the head of the Turk­ish state’s Direc­torate of Reli­gious Affairs (Diyanet). Accord­ing to Kuş’s tweet:

We came togeth­er with our teacher Ali Erbaş and had con­sul­ta­tions on the reli­gious edu­ca­tion of our young peo­ple in Europe, who are our future.

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Kuş has presided over the Union of Inter­na­tion­al Democ­rats (UID; for­mer­ly known as the Union of Euro­pean Turk­ish Democ­rats) since 2021. Ger­man media report­ed at the time that Kuş, a rad­i­cal nation­al­ist can­di­date, had pre­vailed in a com­pet­i­tive vote against a more mod­er­ate can­di­date per­son­al­ly pro­posed by Erdo­gan. As the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has report­ed, Kuş was a past mem­ber of an orga­ni­za­tion clas­si­fied by the Ger­man Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion as close to the far-right Grey Wolves.

The UID describes itself as a vol­un­tary NGO  found­ed in 2004 that oper­ates in sev­er­al Euro­pean coun­tries. Its aims include increas­ing the eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and social activ­i­ties of Turks and “sis­ter com­mu­ni­ties” abroad with­out alien­at­ing their iden­ti­ties and val­ues. Its aims also include com­bat­ting Islam­o­pho­bia. Ger­man media has described the UID as a lob­by­ing group for Pres­i­dent Erdoğan and his AKP, empha­siz­ing Turk­ish val­ues and cus­toms. The Ger­man Office for the Pro­tec­tion of the Con­sti­tu­tion mon­i­tors the UID, describ­ing it as “nation­al­ist” and incom­pat­i­ble with Germany’s free demo­c­ra­t­ic order. As GIOR has report­ed, the UID coor­di­nates with Turk­ish gov­ern­ment offi­cials to help Pres­i­dent Erdoğan in next year’s upcom­ing elections.

Diyanet is a Turk­ish state insti­tu­tion respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing reli­gious affairs. The Diyanet was found­ed in 1924 to monop­o­lize con­trol of Sun­ni Islam in Turkey under the state. The Diyanet drafts a week­ly ser­mon deliv­ered at all of Turkey’s mosques, and their imams are civ­il ser­vants employed by the state. Start­ing in the 1980s, the Diyanet began to man­age mosques abroad and send imams there to pro­mote Turk­ish Islam. After the Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Par­ty (AKP) came to pow­er in 2002, it quadru­pled the Diyanet’s bud­get and installed lead­ers who sup­port­ed its posi­tions. In con­trast, it pre­vi­ous­ly had been sec­u­lar and inde­pen­dent of state inter­fer­ence. Through orga­ni­za­tions such as DITIB, the Diyanet pro­vides imams and pays imams for Turk­ish mosques abroad, and Diyanet imams have spied on Turkey’s oppo­nents abroad and report­ed back to the government.


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