German media is reporting that the chairman of a local DITIB branch has said that the group only canceled an event featuring a Turkish historian known for homophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories because of outside pressure. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report:
May 12, 2021 […] The F.A.Z. now has a voice message from the chairman at the time, Yilmaz Yildiz. It was sent to a Whatsapp group in the state association shortly after the resignation. Yildiz did not want to comment on the content of the message to the F.A.Z., and the state association referred to earlier statements. This makes it difficult to classify the words. In the message, Yildiz speaks about the scandal. After the poster for the event was circulated on social media, “there was a united maneuver against DITIB,” he says in Turkish. This suggests that the cancellation of the event was a reaction to outside requests. On the other hand, in a March 25 press release, DITIB had expressed regret for irritations over the event announcement and initially said that the online lecture with Ahmet Simsirgil “had already been canceled internally, even before there was public criticism of the lineup.” [Translated by DeepL with edits]
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As the GIOR reported in late March, the Rhineland-Palatinate DTIB branch had invited Ahmet Şimşirgil, a Turkish historian known for homophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, to speak at an event. DITIB canceled the event without giving a reason and its chairman, Yilmaz Yildiz, later resigned. The mosque association also posted a message distancing itself from the historian, saying that DITIB rejects his “highly problematic positions.” The Rhineland-Palatinate state then decided to continue a target agreement with the local DITIB branch concerning religious education saying that DITIB had taken responsibility and suffered the consequences. However, the state has since decided to review DITIB’s participation in the agreement as its Science Ministry is criticizing DITIB for offering books with homophobic content.
The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) manages over 900 mosques in Germany. At the same time, the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) determines the theological guidelines for imams’ sermons, and the Turkish consulate pays their salaries. DITIB, however, maintains that it is independent of the Turkish state. German politicians have sought to have imams trained in Germany instead of sent over from Turkey in part to reduce Turkey’s influence in the country.
Other relevant GIOR reporting has included:
- In May 2021, we reported that the German city of Heilbronn rejected a DITIB construction plan to build a mosque in the city.
- In May 2021, we reported that the Diyanet Foundation’s TV channel, which also broadcasts in Europe, has recorded a nearly ten-fold increase in capital over the past three years.
- In May 2021, we reported that President Erdoğan met with the head of DITIB, along with those of other Turkish-German groups, in Ankara.