Tensions between supporters of Erdoğan and partisans of Gülen on the rise in Germany

Strong support for Erdoğan among German Turks

In the aftermath of the attempted putsch in Turkey, Erdoğan’s critics are increasingly feeling the heat. While Erdoğan has proceeded to purge the military, the judiciary, and the educational sector under the state of emergency provisions, those presumed to be opponents of the ruling AKP government have been faced with the ire of Erdoğan’s supporters not just within Turkey but also within the large Turkish community in Germany.

There are more than 2.7 million people with at least one Turkish parent in the country; more than 1.5 million of them hold Turkish citizenship.((https://ergebnisse.zensus2011.de/#dynTable:statUnit=PERSON;absRel=ANZAHL;ags=00,02,01,13,03,05,09,14,16,08,15,12,11,10,07,06,04;agsAxis=X;yAxis=MHGLAND_HLND)) Among this community, Erdoğan’s base is strong: in the November 2015 Turkish elections, 59.7 per cent of German Turks who went to the ballot box gave their vote to the party of current Turkish president – compared to the 49.5 per cent the AKP received in Turkey itself.((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/tuerken-in-deutschland-waehlten-erdogan-partei-akp-a-1060661.html))

Hatred on social media and beyond

Since the failed coup attempt, those affiliated with the Gülen movement and its associated institutions, as well as Kurdish and Alevi individuals, have complained about growing animosities. The Federal Criminal Police Office has observed a massive increase in hostilities towards members of the Gülen movement online and in social networks.((http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/deutschland-hetzen-drohen-denunzieren-1.3088817))

Apparently, many German Turks received notifications on social media encouraging them to name and denounce members of the Gülen movement by calling a newly created Turkish government hotline. The originator of these notifications is supposed to have been the AKP-linked Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD).((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2)) Other sources dispute the existence of such a hotline.

Similarly, in a mosque run by DITIB, a subsidiary of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs and still the largest and most financially strong Muslim association in Germany, flyers reading “Out with the traitors of the fatherland” have reportedly been put up.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2)) Pictures of this flyer, as well as of signs posted in Turkish shops asking Gülenists to stay out have been published by the yellow press.((http://www.bild.de/politik/inland/militaer-putsch-tuerkei/boese-hetze-gegen-tuerken-in-deutschland-46878454.bild.html))

Attacks on Gülenist schools and institutions

However, assaults have not remained confined to the online or the purely verbal realm. In several German cities, buildings of educational institutions that are part of the Gülen movement have been defaced or damaged. In Stuttgart, a school that organises its curriculum in accordance with Gülenist thought is receiving increased police protection after numerous threats were made.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/ankaras-rachefeldzug-gegen-guelen-anhaenger-erreicht-deutschland-14347999.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2))

Video material has appeared online showing an attack by an angry crowd on a youth club in the city of Gelsenkirchen in North-Rhine Westphalia. Windows were smashed and significant damage was caused in the incident. The youth club is part of Gülen’s hizmet movement.((http://www.spiegel.de/video/gelsenkirchen-erdogan-anhaenger-greifen-jugendclub-an-video-1690598.html))

The Gülenist online journal ‘Deutsch-Türkisches Journal’ has consequently complained of a “pogrom mood also in Germany”.((http://dtj-online.de/tuerkische-pogromstimmung-auch-in-deutschland-wir-werden-in-eurem-blut-baden-77556)) The chairman of the Gülen-linked ‘Foundation Dialogue and Education’, Ercan Karakoyun, has reiterated these accusations in interviews.((http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/guelen-bewegung-in-deutschland-erdogan-hat-einen.694.de.html?dram:article_id=360824, http://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.angriffe-auf-guelen-bewegung-der-kampf-ist-in-deutschland-angekommen.1f291dbf-9e09-43e4-ab28-f135cc1af219.html))

DITIB’s reaction

DITIB spokesperson Ayse Aydin denied the allegation that DITIB was participating in a government-orchestrated witch hunt on Gülen sympathisers: “We are are Muslim religious community and we do not reject anyone who wishes to pray in a mosque”, Aydin asserted.  Similarly, the UETD ostentatiously sought to dissociate itself from violence and hatred against Gülenists, implying that the UETD name and logo had been misused on social media.((http://www.dw.com/de/erdogan-gegen-g%C3%BClen-auch-in-deutschland/a-19415216))

Going further, however, a DITIB press release noted that “our mosques are not places of provocation or agitation. If necessary, mosque leaders may, in accordance with the statutes, limit but also prohibit activities in the mosques that go beyond prayer – right up until a ban to enter. This serves the protection of the spiritual atmosphere, of the sacred space and of community peace.” Needless to say, the vagueness of this statement also allows for the banning of (suspected) Gülenists from DITIB mosques, if they are deemed to disturb sacred space and community peace.

Just like the Gülen movement, DITIB went on to criticise the media for its allegedly “widely spread and enduringly tendentious reporting that does not even spare kids’ programmes”.((http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=530&lang=de)) Irrespective of the question of tendentiousness, it is indeed true that many German media outlets and public voices have grown critical enough of Erdoğan so as to hold a certain degree of sympathy towards the hizmet movement – a movement that not long ago they would have regarded with a much greater degree of suspicion.

Enduring political faultlines between German Muslim associations

Events in Turkey have also revealed anew the faultlines between German Muslim associations. The three largest predominantly Turkish associations -DITIB((http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=528&lang=de)), as well as the Sufi-tinged VIKZ((http://www.vikz.de/index.php/pressemitteilungen/items/putschversuch-in-der-tuerkei-gescheitert.html)) and the Islamist-leaning IGMG((https://www.igmg.org/uneingeschraenkte-solidaritaet-mit-dem-tuerkischen-volk-und-der-tuerkei/)) – all lauded the Turkish people for helping defeat the coup by defying the military’s orders. These associations’ press releases present the failure of the putsch as a victory for democracy.

Conversely, the Turkish Alevi community in Germany (AABF) criticised DITIB, VIKZ, and IGMG for simply siding with Erdoğan against the putschists. The Alevi association’s press release demanded genuine democratisation in Turkey and deemed neither Erdoğan nor military rule to be desirable. ((http://alevi.com/de/?p=8555))

The only peak association that is not dominated by Turkish Muslims and Turkish questions, the ZMD, strove to take a pointedly neutral stance and to sharpen its profile by doing so: ZMD chairman Aiman Mazyek announced that “from the position of German Muslims we will continue to advocate for democracy in Turkey […] and not let us get entangled in turf battles.”((http://www.zentralrat.de/27788.php))

To a certain extent such ostentatious neutrality is an easier choice for the ZMD, since it is less embroiled in the Turkish political scene. Yet it is also part and parcel of the ZMD’s and especially Mazyek’s quest to present his persona and organisation as the politically preferable and most reliable voice in the Muslim spectrum.

Expectations and reactions ahead of the German Islam Conference

January 30, 2014

 

Muslims associations and German State authorities will be meeting this year at the annual German Islam Conference to continue the debate about Muslim life in German society. The German Islam Conference was initiated in 2006 by former Minister of Interior Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU). One if the issues will be the implementation of an official Muslim holiday. The speaker of the Turkish community Kenan Kolat raised the importance of an official holiday as “an important signal to the Muslim population”. Kolat appreciated the openness of the designated Minister Thomas De Maizière (CDU) for dialogue, criticizing the conservative attitude of his predecessor Friedrich. The designated Minister of Interior is said to meet representatives of Muslims associations including the Turkish community, the Alevi community and Islamic cultural centers next week, discussing upcoming issues. 

 

Sefi Ögütlü, General-Secretary of the Islamic cultural centers underlined the relevance to open a new chapter. Bekir Alboga, representative of the Turkish Islamic Union Institute for Islamic religion (DITIB) emphasized his optimism. The new Minister would show an appropriate attitude towards the Islamic communities.  Yilmaz Kahraman, representative of the Alevi community in Germany criticized the ineffectiveness of former conferences, which would have left no concrete results but brochures and leaflets. Kahraman called Muslims not to ask what the State may be able to do for them, but look at ways for Muslims to contribute to society and avoid parallel structures.

 

 Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/inland/vor-treffen-zu-islamkonferenz-tuerkische-gemeinde-will-gesetzlichen-muslimfeiertag-12768940.html

 

Central council of Muslims: http://islam.de/23250

Comments by Rector of Islamic University Rotterdam Draw Attention

October 18, 2013

 

The rector of the Islamic University of Rotterdam (IUR) has become the target of press attention after publishing an article stating his views on various aspects of Islamic practice for Sunni and Alevi Muslims and his perspectives on current political events in Turkey. The publication appeared on the personal website of rector Ahmet Akgündüz in Turkish. It has been summarized in Dutch and English news sources in the Netherlands with considerable variation.

Newspaper Trouw notes that Akgündüz states the impossibility of dialogue with anyone who does not adhere to the six principles of faith and five pillars of Islam, and that it is not permissible to intermarry with or eat food slaughtered by some Alevi Muslims. According to Trouw, he further opposes the building of a Sunni-Alevi mosque complex nearby Ankara.

The English publication NIS news claims that Akgündüz’s publication calls opponents of Turkish Premier Erdogan “enemies of Islam”. Their quotation of Akgündüz’s statement that stoning is “one of the prescribed punishment within Islam” is amplified as material for the headline of their article “Islamic University Dean Supports Stoning”.

The unclarity over Akgündüz’s position and the controversial article prompted attention from the Dutch government, with members of the Liberal (VVD), Labour (PvDA), and Christian Democrat parties citing concern about the article, primarily due to the role of the Islamic University of Rotterdam in training Imams in the Netherlands.

In response to the controversy, the IUR has issued a press release stating that it stands in solidarity with the rector, emphasizing his academic qualifications and asserting that the views he presents in his writings are sufficiently neutral and not politically motivated. The press release also asserts that the statements in the media misquote Akgündüz’s position, directly contradicting the quoted positions regarding the acceptability of marriage to or eating meat slaughtered by Alevi Muslims.

Conversation in the press, and clarifications of Akgündüz’s position, is ongoing.

 

 

Personal website post of Ahmet Akgündüz (Turkish)- http://new.ahmetakgunduz.com/?p=112

NIS News (English)- http://www.nisnews.nl/islamic-university-dean-supports-stoning.html

Trouw (Dutch)- http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/5091/Religie/article/detail/3528817/2013/10/17/Rector-Islamitische-Uni-dialoog-met-niet-moslims-is-onmogelijk.dhtml

Press release IUR (Dutch)- http://www.nieuwwij.nl/nieuws/iur-onjuiste-berichtgeving/

A study commissioned by the German Islam Conference documents the integrative activities of Islamic Communities and Muslim clergymen

April 18

 

In contrast with a predominantly negative public image, a new study Commissioned by the German Islam Conference and carried on by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the Center for Turkey Studies and Integration Research, shows that the majority of Muslim Imams have a favorable attitude to dialogue with German society and authorities. Moreover, beside of religious consultancy, Islamic Communities provide important social services, which have an impact on the integration of Muslim immigrants in the society. Such activities include German language classes and job application training for employment-seeking people.

 

The study asked 1.140 Islamic communities and 800 Imams about their service structures. Most communities offer homework mentoring for school pupils, consultancy in health and education issues. One third of the investigated communities offer German language classes. In total, there are 2.350 mosque communities, including Alevi communities, in Germany, and more than four millions Muslims currently live in the Federal Republic.

UK judge convicts Kurd of “honour killing” daughter

A Kurdish father was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murdering his 15-year-old daughter because she fell in love with a follower of a different branch of Islam.

A London judge gave Mehmet Goren, 49, a minimum 22-year prison sentence for his so-called “honour killing” of daughter Tulay, who disappeared a decade ago and was never found. He also was convicted of attacking her boyfriend with an ax.

Prosecutor Damaris Lakin said the fish-and-chip server killed his daughter for having a relationship with a Sunni Muslim. The Gorens adhered to the Alevi branch of the faith, which is linked to the Shiite sect of Islam.