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The crosses have been removed: Hagia Sophia Istanbul Old City, Turkey. Photo: Emre Ergen
Istanbul

Erdogan and Islam: Religion as Trojan Horse for political influence in Germany

Yesterday, the first official Islamic Friday prayer took place at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. The controversy of the re-conversion of the former Christian Orthodox cathedral into a mosque is also hotly being discussed in Europe.

Published: July 25, 2020, 10:37 am

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    The church’s transformation into the mosque is considered a personal project of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At the start of the inauguration ceremony, the Turkish president recited the opening passage of the Quran. The guests at the ceremony in the Hagia Sophia as well as prayer participants who followed the events from video walls erected around the imposing former church building, answered with “Allahu Akbar” calls.

    In Germany, too, Erdogan uses the Turkish variant of Islamism for his policy of influence. The radical Sunni Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüs (IGMG) has a network of more than 300 mosque communities in Germany. In total, the IGMG is said to have more than 30 000 members in Germany. The ideology of Milli Görüs [National World View] is strictly Sunni Islamist and Turkish nationalist, strongly opposed to Muslim integration into European society.

    The Turkish state and the ruling party AKP evidently uses the IGMG to exert political and cultural influence in Germany. But both Ankara and the IGMG leadership deny this. Nevertheless, there are numerous indications that allow conclusions to be drawn about the IGMG being centrally coordinated from Turkey.

    German authorities are well aware of the participation of diplomats from the Turkish embassy and consulates in IGMG events. With the AKP member of parliament and former Milli Görüs General Secretary Mustafa Yeneroglu, there is another lever of Turkish control and influence: Yeneroglu currently heads the AKP’s “Election Coordination Centre for Foreign Countries”.

    In Germany, the IGMG is a member of the Islamic Council of Germany, the Islamrat für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, which in turn is a founding member of the Koordinationsrats der Muslime.

    The Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM) in Germany was established more than a decade ago as a working platform of the four largest Islamic organisations in the country. The majority of mosque communities are represented in the KRM through its member organisations.

    But this is a murky affair at best. The cooperation in the KRM is based on common rules of procedure which were signed by the four founding members. This essentially means that the KRM is not a registered association, so it does not have an independent legal personality.

    The day-to-day business of the KRM is coordinated by the respective speaker function. It was not known whether the KRM had its own staff or whether member associations send their staff to the KRM. In 2008, the Islamic newspaper criticized the fact that the KRM had no employees, no budget, no lobby office in Berlin, no website of its own and hardly a clearly defined programme. It is not known whether the KRM acts as a separate organisation or primarily has a coordinating function.

    In July 2019, the establishment of “country structures” was announced without providing further details.

    According to the Berlin-based expert on Turkey, Ralph Ghadban, the Islam which is being preached in Turkish-controlled mosques in Europe is a “Sharia Islam with strong Turkish-nationalist overtones” that calls for a “strict separation from Western individualistic values”. He also says that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) has been strengthening its ties to Milli Görüs.

    The IGMG organisation is monitored by the Verfassungsschutz , the German domestic intelligence service.

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