German media is reporting that a mosque organization with strong connections to the Turkish government has claimed positive results from a program to train imams in Germany instead of Turkey. According to the Frankfurter Rundschau report, the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs program has also received a positive review from the German interior minister.
March 28, 2021 Cologne (dpa) — The starting signal for the imams “made in Germany” of the largest Islamic organization DITIB attracted a lot of attention. Then it became quiet. After a good year, the head of the academy is taking stock: There has been a lot of interest and positive feedback from the mosque communities, the Muslim community and the German public in general, says Seyda Can. “The participants have taken a lot of steps forward,” reports Eyüp Kalyon, the training officer for the imam training program. Following accusations against DITIB of acting as an extension of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and demands from the federal government and North Rhine-Westphalia to break away from Ankara, the association had promised reforms. The new training course began in early 2020 in the Eifel town of Dahlem — and raised high expectations. Federal Chairman Kazim Türkmen spoke of a “new beginning,” a “historic development not only for DITIB, but also for Germany.” State Secretary of the Interior Markus Kerber said at the time that DITIB was facing a change of course: “Does it want to be a religious community located in Germany or does it see itself as a foreign organization of the Turkish religious authority?” [Translated by DeepL with edits]
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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 article continues to say that the program is designed by DITIB, as opposed to the Diyanet. However, the imams will probably still be paid by the Diyanet, and DITIB is pursuing support from the German Interior Ministry:
What does the curriculum look like? “It’s really a German program,” Can emphasizes. “It’s not put together by the Diyanet.” In other words, developed entirely on DITIB’s own initiative. There is not “one textbook,” he says, but different material, mostly in German. Islamic scholars from several universities lecture as external experts. The list of lecturers and the training regulations will be published soon. DITIB is paying for the training and is currently discussing support with the Federal Ministry of the Interior. […]
The newly trained imams will probably also be paid by the Diyanet. There is currently no other solution in sight.
As a German academic observes, training imams in Germany does little or nothing to sever the Turkish influence given the relationship between DITIB and the Diyanet:
Even though DITIB trains its imams in Germany, she says, the association remains dependent on Turkey. “Nothing has actually changed because the Ministry of Religion continues to maintain control,” she emphasizes. “It is ultimately a matter of concealing the fact that DITIB is not an independent institution.” [Translated by DeepL with edits]
Recent GIOR reporting on DITIB has included:
- In March 2021, we reported that the Danish equivalent of DITIB and a local group with Islamist connections were denouncing a law limiting foreign funding of mosques in Denmark.
- In March 2021, we reported that DITIB’s bookstore was selling a book calling for death to those who insult the Prophet Mohammed and approving “light beating” for women.
- In March 2021, we reported that a DITIB branch was planning to invite a Turkish historian known for homophobic and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories to speak at one of its events.
- In March 2021, we reported that the head of a DITIB branch resigned over accusations of antisemitism.