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Turkey in Danger of Losing Influence in France- Foreign Imams to be Regulated

November 3rd, 2020 15:29

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.