As the crisis over the beading of French schoolteacher Samuel Paty continues, French media is reporting that Turkey may be losing its influence in France. According to an analysis in Le Monde:
Implicitly, the Turkish authorities have not digested the fact that Macron seeks to strengthen control of Muslim places of worship on French soil, having also decided to end foreign imams and preachers coming to France. Turkey is the foreign country with the biggest influence on Islam in France, since it alone sends half of the 300 imams that come from abroad. It fears it will lose its influence if a proposed law on reinforcing secularism in France is passed. The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, financed by Ankara to promote Turkish Islam abroad, risks losing its goodwill. The French president’s speech in Les Mureaux on Oct. 2 and his allusion to “Islam in crisis” particularly unnerved Erdogan, who had called it an “abuse of power.” That is a syndrome the Turkish president knows well. [translated by Worldcrunch]
Read the rest here.
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 while 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 which 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.”
Since Turkey controls nearly 400 of the 2,500 mosques or prayer rooms in France, these developments would be a significant loss of influence for Turkey’s influence. French media has also reported that DITIB has made millions of Euros from hajj (pilgrimages to Makkah) and funeral services for Turks in France, sending much back to the Diyanet in Turkey and using some of it illegally for personal gain. Turkish officials’ recent accusations of Islamophobia in France and calling for boycotts of French products may very well be a way to maintain influence and cashflow.