Germany’s DİTİB rocked by internal dissent, dismissals, and disputes

 

Recent months have not been kind to Germany’s largest Islamic association, the Turkish DİTİB. Particularly since the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the organisation has been under fire for its real and supposed proximity to the Turkish government.

This criticism received new force when it was revealed that DİTİB’s Imams had done the dirty work of the Turkish authorities by spying and informing on suspected members of the Gülen movement in Germany.

Growing internal dissent

In all of this, DİTİB as an organisation and its internal workings have often continued to appear inscrutable. Compared to the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and its ambitious chairman Aiman Mazyek, DİTİB is also less present and outspoken in the public debate, adding to the sense of mystery surrounding the association.

Yet the post-coup political maelstrom and the deteriorating German-Turkish diplomatic relations appear to lead to growing internal dissent and schisms within DİTİB that are increasingly visible from the outside.

Asylum for DİTİB Imams?

DİTİB’s Imams are Turkish state employees, sent to Germany for a number of years before returning back home to Turkey when their contracts with DİTİB’s close to 1,000 mosques in Germany run out.

Since the coup attempt, however, a number of DİTİB Imams have asked for political asylum in Germany, for fear of arrest and persecution should they return to Turkey, due to their (past) affiliation with the Gülenist movement.(( https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Ditib-Bei-den-Ermittlungen-wegen-Spionage-laeuft-erheblich-viel-schief-3664619.html ))

Internal criticism repressed

In February 2017, Murat Kayman, coordinator of DİTİB’s local German branches stepped down from all of his DİTİB offices. Kayman had also been a member of the powerful DİTİB section in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, home to a large share of German Turks.

Kayman had been widely perceived as one of the key advocates of a greater structural independence of DİTİB from the Turkish state, and his departure was seen as having occurred due to considerable internal pressure. At the time of his resignation, Kayman warned that all sides to the various ongoing German-Turkish disputes needed to “disarm verbally and to focus on substantive questions if they do not want to jeopardise durable coexistence”.(( http://www.ksta.de/koeln/murat-kayman-ditib-vorstand-legt-aemter-nieder—rueckt-verband-enger-an-ankara-heran–25773130 ))

Resignation of DİTİB’s youth leadership

Yet Kayman’s departure has not been the endpoint of DİTİB’s internal turmoil. In May 2017, the entire governing board of DİTİB’s youth organisation, the Union of Muslim Youth (Bund der Muslimischen Jugend, BDMJ), announced its collective resignation. The move came after the senior German DİTİB leadership had forcibly transferred two of BDMJ’s functionaries.

The BDMJ leadership complained that a meaningful continuation of their work had become impossible “in the face of the current situation that has been persisting for more than a year.” The youth leaders, who – like most of DİTİB’s grassroots functionaries, work on a voluntary basis – complained of “having been by-passed and not taken seriously once more” in the context of the dismissal of its two members.(( https://dtj-online.de/ditib-jugend-bdmj-ruecktritt-83748 ))

Local dismissals

The internal upheaval in the German DİTİB branch has also reached the very local level. In recent months, DİTİB’s highest functionary in Berlin apparently forced a change in the governing board of the German capital’s famous Şehitlik mosque (pictured above) by manipulating the list of candidates eligible to be elected.(( https://dtj-online.de/ditib-jugend-bdmj-ruecktritt-83748 ))

In other mosques, DİTİB Imams that were suspected of political disloyalty were fired. They subsequently contested their dismissal in court. Although the Imams lost their cases – the court stated that not DİTİB but the Turkish state was their employer – these affairs nevertheless cast a glaring light on the internal state of the association.(( http://www.lto.de/recht/nachrichten/n/arbg-koeln-entlassung-kuendigungsschutzklage-imame-ditib-moscheegemeinde-arbeitgeber/ ))

Pre-existing tensions

The recent events in Turkey and in German-Turkish relations have aggravated and brought to the fore a tension that, in fact, already predates these developments. In many respects, this is a tension over the future direction of DİTİB in particular and of Muslim associational life in Germany more generally.

The youth wings of Germany’s Muslim associations are filled by young men and women born and raised in Germany. Irrespective of their continued affinity to the country of origin of their parents or grand-parents, their upbringing in the German context has nevertheless shaped them in manifold ways.

Generational conflict

By contrast, the organisations’ ‘old guard’ remains essentially Turkish (in the case of DİTİB), with Imams and functionaries being sent by (and returning to) the Turkish state. Thus, the fallout between the DİTİB leadership and the association’s youth wing is also a generational dispute, in which the former is accusing the latter of having become “too German”.(( https://www.pressreader.com/germany/leipziger-volkszeitung/20170529/281608125386373 ))

DİTİB is not the first organisation to experience this conflict, either. In recent years, the German youth section of the Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG) has also clashed time and again with the old leadership. The IGMG’s youth wing wished to break with an orthodoxy that seemed too traditionalist and too ‘Turkish’.((See El-Menouar, Yasemin (2013). “Islam und Sozialkapital: Beispiele muslimischer Gruppierungen in Deutschland”. In Klaus Spenlen (ed.), Gehört der Islam zu Deutschland? Fakten und Analysen zu einem Meinungsstreit. Düsseldorf: Düsseldorf University Press, 2013, pp. 382 ff.)

Future prospects

All this highlights the ways in which the German Islamic associational scene is in turmoil; especially the parts that are predominantly Turkish or of Turkish heritage. What remains to be seen is the ultimate outcome of this unrest.

Some, such as Lamya Kaddor, Islamic scholar and leading member of the Liberal Islamic Union (LIB), see the personnel changes as indicative of a new era of contestation and of much-needed debate. Especially the dissatisfaction among younger members shows, according to Kaddor, that Germany’s Islamic associations need to become more open, more democratic, and more adapted to the needs of Muslims living in Germany if they want to stay relevant.

At the same time, the internal purge that appears to be going on within DİTİB also raises the obverse possibility – of an association that is more and more under the conclusive control of fierce loyalists of the AKP and President Erdoğan and bereft of any alternative voices. In that case, dissenters will be faced by a formidable task of organising themselves anew outside of any existing fora.

Head teachers’ union raises serious concerns over ‘Trojan Horse’ schools

The National Association of Head Teachers says it has serious concerns over schools at the centre of the alleged Islamic plot in Birmingham, with the union’s general secretary warning that Islamic groups wanted “a dominant influence” over schools in the city.

 

Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s general secretary, was speaking before the union’s conference in Birmingham this weekend, where he is to tell delegates: “A tight network of religious leaders of the Islamic faith has made a concerted effort to get involved in the running of schools and to strengthen the power of governing bodies to have a dominant influence in shaping the character of local schools.”

 

Hobby said that while his union was convinced the “Trojan Horse” letter – which described an alleged plot to undermine schools in the city – was fake, it had triggered warnings about school governance, abuse of employment laws and interference with children’s education.

 

Hobby said: “We don’t believe that these allegations are a cause for panic. But neither do we believe that they are a source of comfort either, there have been things going on inside our schools which would make some of us feel uncomfortable.”

 

Hobby said the NAHT and its members had identified three main areas of concern:

 

“The first is contravening what we understand to be the principles of good governance and putting pressure on the paid school leaders within schools to adopt certain philosophies and approaches.”

 

“The second we believe is breaching good employment practice and indeed employment law in order to further this influence, and putting pressure on individual staff members heading into territory which we understand to be constructive dismissal and making sure people are appointed to schools on the basis of their beliefs and not necessarily their skills.”

 

The third issue, which Hobby said was “more serious but also more speculative”, was whether the entitlement of children to a rounded education had been contravened.

 

Ofsted said all 21 inspection reports will be published together with a letter from the chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, to the Department of Education at the beginning of June.

Storm Erupts in Reaction to the Care-Giver Veil Case: Sparks fly between the League and Pd (Democratic Party)

Arese – Tatiana Rotar was fired because she wore a headscarf. Starting October 1 the legal dispute will likely bring together Tatiana Rotar, the 26 year old Ukrainian domestic helper who converted to Islam two months ago and her former employers. The case has divided the town of Varese.

 

Among the two sides are those who understand the family’s choice to fired Rotar (the young woman claims she was fired for her choice to wear the veil) and those who condemn the choice.

 

“There is a law that prohibits dismissal for religious reasons” says Sandy Cane, mayor of Viggiù, a black American and a party member of the Northern League “But you have to see how her religious choice would affect her work. And we need to see where this choice comes from. It was converted after meeting her Muslim boyfriend. I already take that as a sign of weakness. Many could presume that this woman was greatly influenced. She did after all, convert after meeting her Muslim boyfriend.“

 

Cane does not think this is racist: “I do not think that the dismissal after she wore the veil comes from racism. I believe comes from an understandable concern. As Islam today is not associated with peaceful images or scenarios.”

 

This is a Civil Rights issue says Stefano El- fennèe a Moroccan Muslim and spokesman for the Pd Luvinate. “It is unfair and I think that this girl will be shown this by our judicial system” he says “the system must evaluate the work of a person, not his/her religious faith. In this case there is not an objective reason for her dismissal rather it is subjective. Does a nun fulfill her mission any less because she wears a veil? And again, is it better to have a caregiver who is beautiful and wears a short skirt but treats her patients terribly or a caregiver with the veil that instead takes good care of persons in her charge?”

A Muslim Caregiver Fired Because of Her Veil

September 18, 2013

 

“Lose the veil or you are fired.” This was part of an incident reported by Tatiana Rotar, a 26 year old Ukrainian domestic worker, who was accompanied by her partner, Ashraf Gouda, an Egyptian, and owner of a food Import & Export, and resident of Malnate where he served as an Sos volunteer.

“It happened about ten days ago” says Tatiana “For two years I was working as a maid and nanny for a wealthy family of Varese. At one point my employer called me and told me that I was fired. The reason? I put the veil on to cover my head after I converted to Islam.”

From the Orthodox Christian religion to Islam: Tatiana says: “Until a month ago there were never any problems. They had never complained. Today they accuse my partner, and indicate that he has forced me to wear the veil. It this not this racism?”

The couple turned to a union to report the incident. The union has agreed to take the case. Marco Molinari the representative from the trade union CISL (the largest confederation of trade unions) said “We have picked up the case and we have already informed our legal department. Before proceeding with the dispute, that is submit for an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal, we will have to wait until she is handed a letter of dismissal. Only then can we start the legal process.”

French Court affirms religious freedom in hijab case

Le Monde

20.03.2013

France’s Court of Cassation overruled the dismissal of a Muslim woman from her workplace for wearing the niqab. Fatima Afif, a former employee of private day nursery in Chanteloup-les Vignes (Île-de-France), was refused from recommencing to work after a five-year long maternity leave when she announced her intention to continue to wear the niqab in 2008. The female director of the nursery, Natalia Baleato, justified her refusal to reemploy Mrs. Afif with the nursery’s work regulation guidelines, which state the obligation to “neutrality in respect to philosophy, politics and confession”.

The French government has since banned women from wearing the niqab in public with the help of controversial law.

The claimant lost her case of unfair dismissal from workplace on discriminatory grounds in front of the Court of Appeal of Versailles in 2011 but continued to appeal against the court’s decision. Last week’s annulations of  2011’s verdict by the French Court of Cassation in Paris is based upon the judge’s declaration that the Mrs. Afif was employed by a private nursery and not a public state funded institution. In other words, the principles of the recent anti-niqab legislation did not apply to the case whilst her civil right to express her religious faith prevailed.

The French government criticised the court’s ruling on the grounds that “it calls into question the princinple of secular education” in France.

Muslim employee sues Irish supermarket chain for unfair dismissal

A Muslim convert sues her previous employer, Dunnes Stores, a major Irish supermarket chain, for unfair dismissal. The Latvian-born woman converted to Islam after having worked for Dunnes Stores. When she started wearing the headscarf subsequent to her conversion she was told by the local store manager that “she couldn’t come to work wearing the hijab”. After not returning to work, Dunnes Stores dismissed her. The hearing of her case is currently underway.

Muslim pilot sacked from British Airways

4July 2012

Samir Jamaluddin, an Indian born Muslim who had been working for British Airways as a senior first officer when he was arrested by counter terrorism police in 2007. The police eventually dropped the case against him in February 2008 due to lack evidence. However, the airline first suspended and then two years later sacked him, after a security review.

He told a hearing in the Tribunal hearing that he was targeted because he was Asian and a Muslim. The tribunal agreed that there was no evidence against Mr Jamaluddin, yet it decided “his employer had a very proper duty to pursue the matters which ultimately led to his dismissal.”

Dutch Court Upholds Ramadan’s Dismissal

August 11 2010

A Dutch court has ruled that the city council of Rotterdam was within its legal rights in dismissing academic Tariq Ramadan in August 2009. The prominent Islamic philosopher lost his job as city integration officer due to participation in a television program for a broadcast company financed by Iran. Ramadan, who was asking fo 75,000 euros for wrongful dismissal, is to appeal the decision.

Erasmus University Officials Oppose Ramadan’s Dismissal

News coverage of Tariq Ramadan’s dismissal from the Rotterdam city council and Erasmus University continues this week, DutchNews reports from NRC and Volkskrant. Erasmus University in officials are angry with the decision. “’It is a politicial [sic] decision and we are shocked about it,’ economics professor Arjo Klamer said. Professors can only be sacked if they are suspected of commiting a crime, fail to turn up to do their job or damage the university’s reputation, he said.”

University faculty members and employees have released an open letter protesting the dismissal on the grounds that it threatens academic freedom. Ramadan was dismissed by Erasmus and from his advisory job at the city council last week because of his involvement with an Iranian television show.

Tariq Ramadan to Take Position at Oxford

In the wake of his dismissal from positions at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University and with the city council, Tariq Ramadan has accepted a teaching post at Oxford. The Islamic scholar will take up the position of professor of contemporary Islam studies from September 1 2009.

Ramadan was dismissed from his position advising the city on integration due to controversy surrounding his presentation of a television programme on Iranian station Press TV. He has refused to stop work for the station and announced that he will take legal action against the city for his dismissal.

Ramadan, who has been attached to Oxford as a researcher and lecturer for the past four years, takes up a professorship funded by the Qatar foundation for education. ‘Freedom of expression is a fundamental right which will be respected,’ a spokesman for the British university told Telegraaf.