BERLIN (Deutsche Welle)—German MPs with Turkish roots have criticized Turkish associations in Germany for providing a platform for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Many are supported by the Turkish government and do not act independently.
The MPs say Erdogan’s influence goes beyond incendiary speeches in Ankara – a number of Turkish organizations in Germany receive Turkish state support, and as such act as the foreign arm of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) was founded in 1984 as a branch of the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Ankara, which funds religious education in Turkey. It pays for Turkish imams to work in Germany. It also claims to represent 70 percent of Germany’s Muslims.
“The Erdogan government’s control of mosque unions in Germany leads to him increasingly misusing these unions as a mouthpiece for his despotic policies,” Left party MP Sevim Dagdelen told DW last week. “These unions are instrumentalized by Erdogan to establish a very dangerous kind of Islamism that is contrary to basic rights.
“If mosque unions controlled by Erdogan try to exercise political influence, the critical media will have a tough time being heard,” Dagdelen continued. “This means that millions of people here in Germany are being showered with Erdogan’s inhuman propaganda – and the German government is not paying attention.”
Gökay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish community organization TGD, agrees that many groups are under the influence of the Turkish government, particularly DITIB and the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD), a lobby organization for the AKP. “But there are other organizations, like the TGD, that don’t let themselves be influenced by either Turkish or German politics,” he said.
“I can’t prescribe to DITIB how they should act,” he told DW. “But I can call on the associations to adhere to the basic order and freedom of Germany. Groups that call themselves civil organizations should act in the interests of the population, not the government.” But he admitted that, as a state-supported organization, DITIB couldn’t act independently at all.
He also noted that other organizations like Milli Görüs, which specifically pursues a political Islamist agenda and is considered close to the international Muslim Brotherhood, are already under observation by the German intelligence agencies.
Several MPs, including Özdemir and Germany’s Integration Commissioner Aydan Özoguz, called on associations like DITIB to condemn the threats against them. “You don’t have to like the resolution,” Özdemir told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.” “But Turkish organizations must condemn the death threats. There can’t be two opinions on that.”