Council of Europe Wants Turkey to Stop ‘Foreign Funding of Islam’ to Expand Political Influence

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The Council of Europe has asked the Islamist government of Turkey to stop funding Islam overseas for political purposes.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, an intergovernmental organisation which predates the European Union, has called on its members to “put an end to any foreign funding of Islam which is used for the purpose of national political expansion into other States under the guise of Islam,” according to the Stockholm Center for Freedom.

Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, known as the Diyanet, funds and administers a huge number of mosques in Europe — almost 1,000 in Germany alone, where Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan personally opened a gigantic ‘mega mosque’ in Cologne on a recent visit.

While many European politicians feel challenging the Islamist politician would be politically incorrect, there are increasing concerns about how Turkish-funded Islamic institutions are being used to extend Erdoğan’s influence in the continent, particularly over the increasingly large Turkish diaspora in Western Europe and the Balkans.

There is some evidence that the Diyanet’s mosques are effectively arms of the Turkish state, with the German authorities uncovering evidence that their clerics were spying for Ankara in 2016, with a particular focus on diaspora Turkish nationals opposed to the Erdoğan regime.

Austria, under its new conservative-nationalist coalition, has been one of the few countries to take robust action against Erdoğan’s religious networks, shutting down seven Diyanet mosques and deporting around 60 imams and their families as part of a promised “fight against political Islam”.

The response of the Turkish government to Austria’s move against its religious institutions was apocalyptic in tone, with Erdoğan warning that Vienna was “leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent”.

“They say they’re going to kick our religious men out of Austria. Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?” he added.

An Asiatic country with only a small foothold in Europe geographically — a legacy of the Ottoman conquests — Turkey nevertheless enjoys representation in the Council of Europe, and tried to sabotage the Parliamentary Assembly’s resolution against the Diyanet.

Their efforts were unsuccessful, however, with French representative André Vallini expressing the concerns of many in Europe about Turkey’s activities, which have been described as “Islamo-nationalist” in character.

“You have an organisation with 100,000 people under your president, Mr Erdoğan,” Vallini said to the Islamist leader’s representative.

“Please understand that many [Council of Europe members] are frightened about what is said in our countries. We do not even understand the language.”

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