Turkish-European Islamist media is reporting that Turkish government officials and leaders of a Turkish Islamist organization participated in a religious high school’s graduation ceremony. According to the Camia report:
June 20, 2021 The first imam hatip high school in Europe, started by the Islamic Community Milli Gorus (IGMG) organizations years ago, presented its 6th term graduates. A graduation ceremony was held in the garden of the Avicenna Institute Anatolian Imam Hatip High School in Mons, Belgium. At the ceremony, which started with the singing of the Turkish National Anthem and the Belgian national anthem, the students who graduated this year received their diplomas. Along with the families of the students, Abdulhalim İnam, Head of Education of the Islamic Community Milli Gorus, Neslihan Karataş Durmuş, Educational Counselor of the Turkish Embassy in Brussels, President of the Belgian Islamic Federation Muhammed Ünal, and officials from the Islamic Community Milli Gorus organizations attended the ceremony where the Qur’an was recited. The President of the Belgian Maarif Foundation, Zeynep B. Eraslan, also participated in the ceremony. [Translated by Google Translate with edits]
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Islamische Gemeinschaft Millî Görüş (IGMG) is a part of the Millî Görüş movement, a Turkish religious and political movement founded by Necmettin Erbakan, Erdoğan’s political mentor and which has called for an end to the secular regime in Turkey. The Belgian Islamic Federation (Fédération Islamique de Belgique or Belçika İslam Federasyonu) is the Belgian branch of IGMG. The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) has reported that according to the German government, President Erdoğan’s AKP party has intensified its relations with Millî Görüş in Germany.
An Imam Hatip High School is a religious high school initially founded by the Turkish state to train imams. Under President Erdoğan’s AKP party rule, funding and attendance of Imam Hatip schools have greatly increased. The article notes that this particular high school was founded in 1989 by the IGMG and approved by the Turkish Ministry of Education as an Imam Hatip High School in 2012. A student at the school receives the same education as an Imam Hatip High School student in Turkey.
Abdulhalim İnam, IGMG’s Head of Education, also has government connections. According to his IGMG profile, he became the Turkish Ministry of Education’s General Coordinator for Imam Hatip High Schools in Europe in 2013 and in 2015, became a deputy consultant for education at the Turkish embassy in Brussels.
The Turkish government founded the Maarif Foundation (Türkiye Maarif Vakfı) ostensibly to provide education, dormitories, and scholarships abroad, from pre-school to higher education, and raise a “Turkey-friendly youth.” It was also intended to take over schools run by supporters of Fethullah Gülen, which Turkey blames for its 2016 coup. Zafer Sırakaya, Istanbul AKP MP and AKP Deputy Chairman of Foreign Relations, has identified the Maarif Foundation as an element of Turkey’s soft power and a means to reduce assimilation among the Turkish diaspora. The Maarif Foundation operates in over 100 countries globally. Its board members include many AKP officials.
Other relevant GIOR reporting has included:
- In July 2021, we reported that an Austrian government research center released a report about three Islamist groups operating in Austria, including Millî Görüş.
- In May 2021, we reported that the head of IGMG and other Turkish-German organizations met with the Turkish President and the Defense Minister in Turkey.
- In March 2021, we reported that the French government was trying to stop Millî Görüş from receiving a local government subsidy in connection with the construction of a “grand mosque” in Strasbourg.