Three of Germany’s Islamic associations forge an “Islamokemalist” front

Amidst escalating political tensions between Germany and Turkey, three of Germany’s Turkish-dominated Islamic associations have made clear their perspective on the causes of the current diplomatic spat.

Joint press release

On the anniversary of last year’s military coup attempt in Turkey, the DİTİB, IGMG, and ATİB organisations issued a joint press release, calling for a “about-face in German-Turkish relations”.(( http://ditib.de/detail1.php?id=610&lang=de ))

In this document, the three signing associations bemoan that “Europe’s highly reserved reaction” to the attempted putsch had “deeply unsettled the people of Turkish descent. It is more necessary than ever to lift German-Turkish relations to the usual, cordial level.”

“Lack of solidarity”

The core message of the statement centres on Europe’s failure to “recognise the great trauma of July 15 [2016]”. DİTİB, IGMG, and ATİB criticise what to them appears to be “widespread disappointment at the failure of the coup”. They castigate the “lack of solidarity with the Turkish people, considering 249 dead and thousands injured”.

The three organisations greeted the conciliatory signals made by Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Sigmar Gabriel, who had in the past repeatedly stressed the need to be supportive of Turkish democracy against the coup plotters.

The Gülenist foe

Overall, the statement paints a picture of Turkey as beleaguered by internal and external enemies, ranging from a PKK terror campaign to instable neighbouring states. It is against this backdrop that DİTİB, IGMG, and ATİB see the coup attempt as having been committed by “a sect-like parallel state, which has infiltrated nearly the entire state apparatus through illegitimate networks and unlawful means” – i.e. the Gülenists.

Implied in this argument is always the suspicion that Germany is either too soft on Gülenists or that it even actively endorses the movement. In fact, a Turkish tabloid recently claimed that the Gülen organization was “Germany’s long arm”.(( https://twitter.com/ercankarakoyun?lang=de ))

Bridging old divides between DİTİB, IGMG, and ATİB

Yet it is not only the statement itself that is of interest but also the entente of the three organisations responsible for its drafting. DİTİB, IGMG, and ATİB joining hands represents the convergence of previously disparate groups under the shared commitment to a strong Turkey led by an increasingly authoritarian President.

DİTİB, the subsidiary of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and thus an indirect organ of the Turkish statem has always pursued a line broadly sympathetic to current Turkish governments. Recently it has come under increasingly tight control of the AKP administration.

Islamists and nationalists

IGMG – in its full name “Islamic Community Millî Görüş” – is an offshoot of Necmettin Erbakan’s Islamist movement. As such, it did not use to be on good terms with DİTİB, as long as the old Kemalist elites were in charge of the organisation. This changed after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s arrival in power: Erdoğan’s own AK Party is a spin-off of Erbakan’s movement.

Finally, ATİB – the “Union of Turkish-Islamic Cultural Associations in Europe” – represents a stridently nationalistic version of Turkish Islam. Whilst some of the Union’s funding is derived from the Turkish state and Diyanet, it also has long-standing ties with hardline Turkish nationalism as incarnated by the “Grey Wolves.”

The rise of “Islamokemalism”

As such, ATİB’s co-signing of the press release with DİTİB and IGMG mirrors the rallying of Turkey’s far-right MHP party to Erdoğan’s persona and his authoritarian leadership style. In this respect, the agenda of the three associations is not as much Islamic as it is concerned with projecting a strikingly nationalistic picture of Turkish greatness.

Şahin Alpay, one of Turkey’s leading intellectuals arrested since the coup attempt, has referred to this marriage of authoritarian nationalism with Islamist references as “Islamokemalism”.(( http://www.zeit.de/politik/ausland/2016-10/sahin-alpay-journalist-gefaengnis-silivri-tuerkei-putsch )) This term perhaps better than any other captures current developments in Turkey.

Beziers mayor to be tried for Muslim ‘problem’ comments

Robert Menard, who is an ally of France’s anti-immigrant National Front party, will face a charge in a Paris court of incitement to hatred or discrimination.

“In a class in the city center in my town, 91 percent of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem. There are limits to tolerance”, he said in September 5 comments on news channel LCI.

 

Also in September, on France’s first day back to school, he tweeted his regret at witnessing “the great replacement”, using a term by xenophobic writer Renaud Camus to describe the country’s white, Christian population being overtaken by foreign-born Muslims.

Menard, who is the mayor of southern France town Beziers, denied his comments were discriminatory.

“I just described the situation in my town,” he told AFP. “It is not a value judgement, it’s a fact. It’s what I can see.”

According to France-based anti-racism group Licra, the trial is set for March 8.

Menard prompted outrage in October by putting up anti-migrant posters and calling for a local referendum ahead of the arrival of asylum-seekers in his town.

Under the headline “That’s It, They’re Coming”, is an image of a crowd of migrants, all of them men, outside the cathedral in Beziers.

Menard was for 23 years the head of the media rights group Reporters Without Borders, which has distanced itself from him since he left in 2008.

Salafist mosque contests its closure before France’s State Council

The Yvelines prefecture has accused the Ecquevilly Mosque of calling for “discrimination and hate and violence.” The association in charge of running the mosque responded by denouncing amalgamations between salafism and jihadism. On November 2, the prefecture had called for its closing under the State of Emergency. There are no known ties to foreign networks, but the prefecture opposed the discourse of its imam, Yassine B.

On Monday, the Ecquevilly Mosque contested its closure before the State Council. The prefecture had accused the mosque of being “an influential place of worship in the salafist movement…calling for discrimination and hate and violence against women, Jews, and Christians,” adding that the imam “legitimated in a sermon,” the 2015 Paris attacks. The prefecture justified its closure by stating that “younger and younger individuals have begun to frequent salafist mosques,” which pose a security risk.

The mosque’s lawyers spoke before the State Council, stating: “We don’t see how the fight against terrorism would attempt to silence all forms of Islam in France for the sole reason that they don’t adhere to all the pillars of a Republican Islam.”

The imam denounced what he saw as a “State trap,” and contested any accusations that he had encouraged terrorism. The administrative court confirmed the mosque’s closing, as well as the prefecture’s accusations against the imam, whose statements regarding Islam and women were said to, “incite hate, discrimination, and disrespect for the laws of the Republic.”

The discourse “has already had negative effects on social cohesion in Ecquevilly for reasons of religious pressure, notably felt by women, who are ‘insufficiently’ veiled or not veiled at all. [This pressure] is in turn absorbed by children,” the magistrate stated.

The Interior Ministry representative described an “insidious message, which instilled idea in the community that, in the end, the [Paris] attacks were tolerable.”

In its retort, the association stated that the mosque adheres to quietist and apolitical salafism, rather than “revolutionary salafism,” which constitutes the “jihadist movement.” The association said it has “always condemned” terrorism and violence. It insisted that “none” of its worshipers, to its knowledge, were on the terror watch list or under house arrest.

Pope Francis invites French Muslim leaders to meet at Vatican

Pope Francis will receive a delegation from the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) in the Vatican on November 3.

The five members representing the CFCM include President Anwar Kbibech, the three Vice-Presidents and the Secretary General of the organization, Abdallah Zekri. They will meet with the Pope in a private audience after meeting with the prelate in charge of relations with Islam, French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

“I am very happy to meet the Pope because he is a man of dialogue and a man of peace,” Adballah Zekri said.

This meeting was reportedly organized on behalf of the Vatican by the French cardinals to strengthen interreligious dialogue between the two faiths, especially in the aftermath of a number of terror attacks. The French cardinals told the CFCM that the Pope had particularly appreciated the institution’s firm positions following the murder of Father Jacques Hamel on July 26 in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two terrorists belonging to the Islamic State.

The CFCM delegation will travel to Rome on November 2 for a reception at France’s embassy in Rome. On November 3, they will meet with the Vatican Cardinal in charge of relations with Islam, followed by the private audience with Pope Francis.

France has been particularly hard hit by attacks from Islamic terrorists. Besides the execution of Father Hamel, militants of the Islamic State have carried out two major attacks in Paris, as well as the slaughter of 84 civilians in the south of France as they celebrated Bastille Day.

 

British police charge Anjem Choudary

Authorities in London charged the extremist Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary with “inviting support” for the Islamic State, which could lead to his trial and imprisonment. Investigators said that Choudary was encouraging people to back the jihadists through a number of lectures that were later published online.

The move is a high-profile test case for new counter-extremism initiatives launched by British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Choudary is a known entity who infuriates many, including the vast majority of British Muslims, as Media Matters lays out:

The advocacy group Hope Not Hate has described Choudary as “the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history,” saying he has “facilitated or encouraged” many Muslims to join the anti-Assad militants in Syria. Muslim groups in the United Kingdom have also denounced Choudary. The Muslim Council of Britain called him “a self-serving publicity seeker,” and the Islamic Society of Britain said Choudary “has no legitimacy in the Muslim community.”

The description of Choudary as “a self-serving publicity seeker” is particularly apt. He unabashedly espouses radical fundamentalist views and has been repeatedly given a platform by Western journalists to voice them.