Two Turkish-German religious organizations with connections to the Turkish government chose not to participate in creating an imam training center financed by the German state. According to the Daily Sabah report:
June 16, 2021, Germany’s latest initiative of launching a state-backed training center for imams has been shunned by leading Turkish groups in the country, as they argue that it conflicts with the principle that religious communities alone are entitled to train their leaders. The German government launched the initiative to help reduce the number of Islamic leaders coming in from abroad. Around 40 aspiring religious leaders attended their first classes at the German College of Islam in the northwestern city of Osnabrueck Monday, with the official inauguration Tuesday. Leading Turkish-Muslim groups in the country, namely the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and National Vision (Milli Görüş), chose not to participate in the creation of the German College of Islam, with the DITIB launching its own training program in Germany last year. Milli Görüş believes that the training of imams should be “free from external influences, especially political ones,” according to general secretary Bekir Altaş.
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The article further details that the training center (The Islam College of Germany, Das Islamkolleg Deutschland) is a two-year program open to those holding a bachelor’s degree in Islamic theology or an equivalent diploma.
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. The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported on DITIB’s imam training program in Germany, which found that the imams would still probably be paid by Turkey, and training the imams in Germany would do little to sever Turkey’s influence over them.
Millî Görüş is a Turkish religious and political movement founded by Necmettin Erbakan, Erdoğan’s political mentor, which has called for an end to the secular regime in Turkey. The GIOR has reported that the German government is asserting that Turkish President Erdoğan’s AKP party has intensified its relations with Millî Görüş in Germany.
Other relevant GIOR reporting includes:
- In May 2021, we reported that DITIB will remain part of an Islamic education advisory board in the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia.
- In May 2021, we reported that President Erdoğan and the Turkish Defense Minister met with the heads of the German branches of DITIB and Millî Görüş, among others.
- In March 2021, we reported that DITIB, the German branch of Millî Görüş, and the Diyanet were selling a book calling for death for insulting the Prophet Mohammed and approving “light beating” for women.