German media is reporting that a mosque association connected to the Turkish government will remain part of an Islamic education advisory board in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia while excluding another Islamic umbrella group. According to a Qantara report:
May 18, 2021 Düsseldorf. The Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) will no longer be allowed to participate in the organization of Islamic religious instruction in North Rhine-Westphalia for the time being. On Monday in Düsseldorf, the Ministry of Education presented the members of a new commission that will be entrusted with this task in the future. The six organizations named do not include the Central Council. Education Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) did not want to comment on the reasons. However, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which is also controversial, was appointed to the committee. The Central Council of Muslims is currently trying to sue its way onto the new commission. It is criticized, among other things, because of its founding member ATIB (Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe). The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classifies the Union with the Gray Wolves right-wing radical movement, which assumes a racial superiority of the Turkic peoples. ATIB is still the organization with the largest number of members in the Central Council. Nevertheless, the ZMD was previously a member of an advisory board that helped determine the content and personnel of Islamic instruction in North Rhine-Westphalia. [Translated by DeepL with edits]
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North-Rhine Westphalia has featured an Islamic education advisory board since 2012. It has always included the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which manages over 900 mosques in Germany and is linked to the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). DITIB’s inclusion is likely because DITIB is the most prominent Islamic organization, too big to ignore or exclude, and Germany does not yet have enough domestically trained imams to replace those of DITIB, who are paid by the Turkish state. However, DITIB’s influence on the board is limited as it is merely one of the six voting members.
The Gray Wolves are a right-wing, pan-Turkish, ultranationalist Turkish youth and street movement founded in the 1960s. Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution describes the Gray Wolves as spreading nationalist and right-wing extremist ideology and having connections to the Turkish ultranationalist National Action Party (MHP), the AKP’s government coalition partner. However, the MHP “rejects any organic ties” with the Gray Wolves. A May 2021 EU Parliament report has called on the EU and its Member States to consider placing the Gray Wolves on the EU terror list.
Relevant GIOR reporting includes:
- In May 2021, we reported that a German city rejected a DITIB mosque construction plan.
- In May 2021, we reported that President Erdoğan and the Turkish Defense Minister met with the heads of DITIB, ATIB, and other groups in Ankara.
- In April 2021, we reported that DITIB claimed positive results from a program to train imams in Germany instead of Turkey.
- In April 2021, we reported that Germany’s ruling party adopted a resolution that would discontinue cooperation between the German government and Islamist groups under observation by the domestic intelligence agency, which would affect the ZMD.