German Minister: Turkey Controls German Islamic Association

A Turkish-German MP who has heavily criticised an Islamic group in the country claims that it is under the control of the Turkish government.

German Integration Commissioner of the Federal Government, Aydan Özoguz, a Muslim, has claimed that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) takes its marching orders from the government in Ankara.

She made the claim after they refused to allow her to join them to break the Ramadan fast after sunset, the iftar meal, citing concerns for her safety. The move came after Bundestag President Norbert Lammert was invited by the organisation shortly beforehand reports Die Welt.

According to the MP the real reason for the supposed “safety concerns” come from a recent vote in the German Bundestag to recognise the Armenian genocide that occurred during the First World War; Ms. Özoguz voted in favour of the motion.

“Instead of making it clear that threats and intimidation are not acceptable, the Association leaves space for the hardliners,” Ms. Özoguz claimed. She said: “The DITIB claims to be a German club, but can be controlled by Ankara. That can not be allowed.”

The German vote to recognise the genocide provoked outrage in Ankara where claiming the legitimacy of the genocide is covered under the same law as is used to persecute political opponents of the regime. After the vote, MPs of Turkish decent were subject to attacks in both Turkey and Germany.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the MPs of supporting the banned Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) who have been responsible for several terror attacks in recent years. The President even urged the MPs to prove their “Turkishness” by submitting to a blood test.

The DITIB were forced to admit that the real reason for the security concerns were threats they perceived as legitimate from Turkish nationalists. The organisation said they had received multiple threats from the nationalists via the internet.

Head of external relations for DITIB Zekeriya Altug regretted the tense atmosphere saying, “I very much hope that the outspoken threats are merely frustrated reactions. Nevertheless, they may well escalate and become dangerous. Therefore, we must all act to de-escalate.”

Serap Güler, a Muslim deputy for the Christian Democratic Union in North Rhine-Westphalia, explained to German press: “Whoever wants to be taken seriously as a religious community, should take care especially of the religious needs of the people and not put the policy of the Turkish government at the expense of our deputy.” Ms. Güler,  who was born in Turkey, said she thought the entire incident “regrettable,” and asked for a “return to the path of dialogue”.

Turkey attempted earlier this year to exert influence over Europeans directly. The Turkish embassy in the Netherlands put out an email to Turkish nationals asking them to report instances of Mr. Erdoğan being insulted so they could look into pursuing charges as they did in the case of the German comic Jan Bohmermann who read out a lewd poem directed at the Turkish head of state.


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