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.

Teacher admits campaign to install Muslim staff at schools

A senior teacher at the centre of an alleged plot by religious hard-liners to seize control of governing bodies has admitted that there was a campaign to install Muslims in leading roles at schools in Birmingham. Nearly 20 schools in the city are currently being investigated over claims that male and female pupils were segregated, sex education banned and extremist clerics praised in assemblies.

 

Speaking anonymously to Channel 4 News on Sunday night, the teacher admitted there was a campaign to assert more Muslim influence in schools, describing it as “a very positive thing”. He said: “This is about the proportion of representation and leadership on boards of schools that serve predominantly Muslim children. These teachers and leaders have a deeper understanding of the view of the population in these schools. I think the needs of Muslim children have been neglected for many, many years. There even school in areas with high Muslim population that do not serve halal meat, for example.”

Judge finds District’s rules for hanging political posters unconstitutional

A federal judge on Thursday struck down as unconstitutional the District’s regulations for hanging political signs on the city’s lampposts.

U.S. District Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth’s opinion finds that the rules governing how long signs can be posted in the District violate the First Amendment, and it prevents the city from enforcing the regulations.

In his 58-page decision, Lamberth “lauds the District for opening its lampposts to political messages” but writes that “once the District opens up public property to political speech, it has a responsibility to be fair, even and precise in its regulations.”

At issue is a long-standing battle between the District and a grass-roots organization that was fined tens of thousands of dollars by the city for failing to promptly remove its posters from lampposts and electrical boxes after an anti-war march it advertised in 2007.

Two groups — the Act Now to Stop War and End Racism Coalition and the Muslim American Society Freedom Foundation — argued that the city’s rules unfairly distinguished between different types of speech and initially favored signs promoting the election of individual candidates for public office.

In response to the lawsuit, the District has rewritten its regulations at least four times. City attorneys in the case said the regulations were designed to promote aesthetics and reduce litter, according to court documents.

But Lamberth wrote that the revised regulations still failed to apply a consistent, constitutional standard, in part because of the discretion the language gives to individual city inspectors.

French women’s soccer match called off over hijab

March 19, 2012

A referee refused to officiate a French women’s football match, when players for one of the teams took the pitch wearing Muslim headscarves, the club involved said. The official sent a report to the Languedoc-Roussillon league in the south of the country about the incident involving players from Petit-Bard Montpellier, who had been due to play Narbonne in the regional promotion tie. The league must now decide whether to order the match to be replayed or to award a win to Narbonne.

Football’s world governing body FIFA banned players from wearing the Islamic headscarf in 2007, claiming it is unsafe. But football federations and even the United Nations have urged FIFA to lift the ban, maintaining that concerns about safety are baseless and that it discriminates against Muslim players, particularly when no such restrictions apply in other sports.

Soccer group agrees to test hijabs for female players

Muslim female soccer players are celebrating a decision by the International Football Association Board to allow them to test specially designed head coverings for four months.

Soccer’s international governing body, known as FIFA, has prohibited headscarves since 2007, citing safety concerns. The new headscarves will be fastened with Velcro rather than pins.

The headscarf prohibition has generated controversy among fans of the world’s most popular team sport, especially in Muslim countries in Africa, the Middle East and central Asia.

In Canada, Quebec’s Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association barred a referee from a game in 2011 because she wore a headscarf, citing prohibitions against religious symbols on uniforms. During a 2007 youth tournament in Quebec, a Muslim player was ejected from a game for wearing a headscarf.

The Catalan government modifies the law governing places of worship

July, 26/2011

The new Catalan government has announced the modification of the Law of places of worship. This reform eliminates the obligation for the city councils to set aside spaces for a religious use. The Catalan nationalist right party (CiU), now in charge of the government, always has showed their objections to the obligatory reserve of urban spaces for a religious use. The Law of places of worship was approved on 2009 by the left coalition government and it was developed during 2010. The Law had a triple objective: to facilitate the exercising of the right to freedom of worship, to provide support to city councils when guaranteeing this right and, lastly, to ensure adequate conditions with regards safety and hygiene in places of worship.

 

A matter of faith: Muslim woman wants to compete in weightlifting, but stay true to religion

ATLANTA — Looking to get stronger, Kulsoom Abdullah took up weightlifting a couple of years ago. She quickly grew to love the male-dominated sport, entering local competitions and even allowing herself to dream of one day making it to the Olympics.

She’d like to see how far this passion might take her, but not if it means compromising her religious beliefs.
Seems perfectly reasonable.

Yet Abdullah, a 35-year-old Atlantan, has been barred from entering the U.S. senior nationals in Iowa next month. The problem: Her Muslim faith requires that she cover her arms, legs and head — which violates international rules governing weightlifting attire.

Debate over Merkel’s Reaction to Bin Laden’s Death

04.05.2011
Following the killing of Bin Laden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel publicly announced her relief about the news during a press conference. More specifically, Merkel said it was “great news” and that she was “happy” to hear about the killing of Bin Laden. Further, she expressed her respect for Obama’s strategy. Merkel’s expression of joy over Bin Laden’s death has unleashed heated debate; her statement has been criticized by various religious groups and members of the political opposition as well as Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the governing coalition. Critics expressed their discomfort at the expression of joy over the death of a human being. Church representatives argued that from a Christian perspective, in particular, it was especially inappropriate to express happiness about the intentional killing of another human being. While most critics were understanding of expressions of relief about Bin Laden’s death, they considered it to be inadequate to express happiness in the way Merkel did. Others, such as Omid Nouripour, member of the Green Party, not only criticized Merkel’s statement, but also the killing of Bin Laden more generally. Nouripour stressed that the rules and regulations of a constitutional state had to be kept – even in the war against terror.

Many members of the Christian Democrats, however, supported Merkel. Heiner Geißler, for instance, argued that any civilized person should be happy about the fact that Bin Laden did no longer pose a threat. Geißler responded to criticisms by religious groups and argued that being Christian did not mean to be pedantic and “preachy”. He understood Merkel’s statement merely as an expression of happiness that this “problem” had been solved. Similarly, Dieter Graumann, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, saw Merkel’s happiness as not related to someone’s death, but the success in the war against international terrorism. Also amongst those defending Merkel’s statement is Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who, similar to Merkel, welcomed Bin Laden’s death as “good news”. While Westerwelle said that relief about Bin Laden’s death was understandable, he warned that the reactions to his killing in the West must not lead to any provocation of Al Qaida. Further, he emphasized the need to stay vigilant, as the killing of Bin Laden did not end the international fight against terrorism and extremism

Reacting to the public criticism, the Government emphasized that Merkel’s statement could not be isolated from the context. Seen in its context, it merely expressed relief that Bin Laden no longer posed any threat.

Dutch Police Chief’s Burqa Comments Stir Controversy

Amsterdam police chief Bernard Welten has come under fire after suggesting that, should the burqa be banned in the country, his officers would not necessarily arrest women wearing the garment. Describing the issue as ‘extremely complicated’ Welten, noting that officers would have to ‘think hard’ before taking such a step. Under the governing coalition between conservatives (VVD), Christian Democrats (CDA) and the Party for Freedom (PVV), the accord has agreed to ban face covering clothing and the proposal is expected to pass successfully through parliament in the near future.

Welten faced criticism from several political parties, including the VVD and the PVV. Meanwhile Labour MP Ahmed Marcouch called the debate a non-issue, noting that he has never seen a burqa in Amsterdam. Orthodox Dutch Muslim organization As-Soennah has welcomed the remarks by Welten as ‘courageous’.

Dutch Turks Free To Practice Islam

December 8 2010

The Dutch government has reassured Turkey that the country’s governing coalition does not share politician Geert Wilders’understanding of Islam, reinforcing the freedom for Dutch-Turks to practice their religion. Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal spoke to a group of Turkish journalists to clarify the stance of his government on the issue, following discussions with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Foreign Minister Ahment Davutoglu during the NATO Summit last month.