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.

OPINION: WHY ISLAM NEEDS FEMINIST VOICES TO COUNTER MISOGYNISTIC INTERPRETATION OF KORAN

A few weeks ago, just prior to the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Pakistan’s Council of Islamic Ideology met in Islamabad. The agenda for the meeting was packed, and 19 of the Council’s 20 members were present. The main issue for debate was the question of whether the Protection of Women Against Violence Act of 2015, passed by the Punjab Assembly earlier in the year, could be deemed Islamic. The only member not present was the Council’s sole female member, Dr. Sameeha Raheel Qazi.
When the meeting was over, the Council, under the leadership of its chairman, Maulana Sheerani, issued a press release declaring that a man, under certain circumstances, was permitted to ”lightly beat his wife.” These circumstances include instances of “wifely disobedience”: the Council enumerated the refusal of marital sex, interactions with male strangers, and even refusing to take baths of purity following intercourse or menstruation.

Tory candidate for Brentwood South resigns after tweeting that Islam was the “religion of rape”

A Conservative local election candidate who tweeted that it was good to be anti-Islam and that the Islam was the “religion of rape”, has had to resign just weeks after being chosen to represent the party in the Brentwood local elections.

David Bishop, who was due to stand as the Conservative candidate for the ward of Brentwood South, Essex, later this month, resigned yesterday after local press discovered anti-Islamic and homophobic tweets on his twitter account.

 

In a tweet posted just two days after being selected Bishop posted that Islam was the “religion of peace’ & rape”, after it was announced that four Muslim men had been arrested for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

 

Initially, when questioned by The Brentwood Gazette about the tweets, Bishop has said that they had been posted to make such views look stupid.

 

He stated the following after handing in his resignation: “I recognise that someone standing for public office should show leadership and seek to unite communities, not divide them. I hope the residents of Brentwood South can forgive my lack of judgement in time.”

 

This was followed by a statement from Louise McKinlay, group leader of Brentwood Conservatives, which said that the views of Bishop had “no place in our team”.

 

Bishop’s inflammatory comments are on the same day when UKIP announced that they would be suspending one of their election candidates after he made similar comments on twitter. Harry Perry, who was seeking election in the Offerton ward in Stockport, was suspended by the party after tweeting that Islam was “evil” and homosexuality was an “abomination before god.”.

Government intervenes at school ‘taken over’ by Muslim radicals

March 22, 2014

 

The Birmingham school at the centre of an alleged campaign of “Islamisation” by Muslim radicals is to be placed in “special measures” by the Government’s education watchdog in a move that could see its head teacher and governors removed. Park View, previously rated “outstanding” by Ofsted, will be downgraded to “inadequate”, the lowest possible score, in the category of leadership and management, senior education sources said. This enables Ofsted to place the school in special measures, allowing the watchdog, if it wishes, to remove the school’s entire leadership.

The move, described as “seismic” by senior educational sources, follows a highly unusual two Ofsted inspections in the past three weeks at the school, the alleged victim of a campaign by Islamists called a “Trojan Horse” to remove secular head teachers and install Islamic practices in Birmingham state schools. The disclosure comes as parents and school governors and staff describe in detail how the campaign has destabilised and undermined successful schools.

At the supposedly non-religious primary school, Oldknow, anti-Christian chanting has been reportedly led by one of their teachers at assembly, as well as conducting weekly Friday prayers, school trips to Mecca subsidised from public funds and Oldknow like Nansen Primary has the requirement that all pupils learn Arabic (this is almost unheard of at primary level). Oldknow’s highly successful non-Muslim head teacher has been driven from her post for resisting the “Islamising agenda”. At another successful primary school, Springfield, the head teacher received death threats, had his car tyres slashed and is under “non-stop attack” by radical governors.

Several sources said their schools had repeatedly appealed to Birmingham city council and the education inspectorate Ofsted for help, but were ignored.

According to the Telegraph one of the alleged leaders of the Trojan Horse plot is Tahir Alam, an Ofsted inspector and a “specialist in school governance” at Birmingham city council. Mr Alam says the plot is a fabrication and denies any involvement. Officials from the Department for Education were sent to three of the schools allegedly targeted: Park View, Golden Hillock and Nansen Primary. All three state schools are run by Park View Education Trust, whose chairman is Mr Alam. The deputy head of Nansen Razwan Faraz is the brother of a convicted terrorist and is the administrator of an organisation called “Educational Activists” dedicated to pursuing what has been called an “Islamising agenda” in Birmingham schools.

The Department of Education confirmed that its officials were sent into Park View as part of an “ongoing investigation” into “serious allegations”. Officials are also expected to carry out a snap inspection at Nansen and Golden Hillock.

Hard-line teachers were recruited with some of the teachers telling pupils that music was sinful and as a consequence the children started to refuse to take the music lesson even though it is compulsory on the National Curriculum.

 

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10716855/Government-intervenes-at-school-taken-over-by-Muslim-radicals.html

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-26482599

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/07/alleged-plot-birmingham-schools-islamic-principles

Alleged plot to ‘take over’ and run schools on strict Islamic principles

March 7, 2014

 

An alleged plot to oust some Birmingham head teachers and make their schools adhere to more Islamic principles is being investigated. A letter detailing the plan, known as “Operation Trojan Horse”, claims responsibility for leadership changes at four schools.

These schools are Adderley Primary, Saltley School, Park View School and Regents Park Community Primary School.

Saltley’s head teacher resigned last year after a critical Ofsted report. Inspectors said there was a “dysfunctional” relationship between head teacher Balwant Bains and governors which was hindering the school.

The letter, which purports to outline “Operation Trojan Horse”, has subsequently been sent to at least another 12 schools in the city – all believed to be vulnerable to takeover. It states that parents could be encouraged to turn against the leadership team if they are told the school is “corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and [carrying out] mixed swimming and sport”. It says: “We have an obligation to our children to fulfil our roles and ensure these schools are run on Islamic principles.”

The head teachers of the schools met Birmingham City Council on Thursday to discuss their concerns.

The letter was apparently written by someone in Birmingham to a contact in Bradford, and goes on to outline ways and means by which schools can be taken over. The letter implies these methods have already been put into action and urges the recipient to use Ofsted reports to identify schools in predominantly Muslim areas which are struggling. It says that Salafi parents should be enlisted to help, because they are regarded as a more orthodox branch of Islam and would be more likely to be willing to help.

Although the authorities have been aware of the alleged plot since November, the details have only become public now thanks to the letter which has been widely leaked.

It is unknown whether it’s genuine or a fake, but that’s one of the questions the city council is attempting to answer with its investigation. It was sent to the city council in 2013 and has led to a number of investigations. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Extremist Unit is also involved and the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit has also looked into the case after being handed the letter in December 2013 although Supt. Sue Southern, head of the unit, said it was decided the allegations in the letter were “not a matter for the police”.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it had “received some anonymous letters in February which claimed that an extremist religious group was trying to engineer the sacking of head teachers who did not promote the group’s ideals”. It said it was working with the police, the Department for Education and Birmingham City Council to investigate the claim.

Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Hodge Hill, said he had held urgent talks with Ofsted, City Council officials, the office of Michael Gove and DfE officials.

 

The BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-26482599

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/mar/07/alleged-plot-birmingham-schools-islamic-principles

Cincinnati woman elected mosque board president

February 14, 2014.

 

Eighteen years ago, when Shakila Ahmad offered to arrange tours of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati where she’s a member, she thought she was volunteering for a single weekend.

Since then, 70,000 visitors have stopped by.

What Ahmad offered visitors was an opportunity the vast majority of Americans never get – to enter a mosque, discuss matters of faith face-to-face with their Muslim countrymen and find out what Islam is and what it isn’t.

The reward, Ahmad says, is “seeing the transformation on a person’s face and hearing them ask a difficult question without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.”

“We’re not the same,” she says, “but we have far more in common than we have differences.”

Last month, she assumed one of the area’s highest-profile religious leadership roles when she was elected president of the Islamic Center’s board of trustees – the first woman to hold the role in the Center’s 18-year history and only its second president.

 

CAIR.com: http://cair.com/press-center/american-muslim-news/12378-cincinnati-woman-elected-mosque-board-president.html

Al Qaeda launches a new magazine that contains several references to Spain.

22 July 2013

 

Security forces have detected the launch of a new  Jihadist magazine that since weeks circulates in radical Internet forums. Its name is AZAN, and it is published by a group known as ‘Mujahideen in Khorasan’ akin to Al Qaeda.  Its first issue has several references to Spain and contains also an article of the Spanish-born radical activist Mustafa Setmarian, as reported by the counterterrorism forces. These same sources have stated that Spain is referenced in several articles as ‘Al-Andalus’. One of them is about the reconquest of the Spanish territory which is particularly symbolic to jihadist ideology because it evokes one of the periods of greatest splendor of Islam. In any case, the experts in the analysis of these documents consider that at the moment thery are only theoretical references and doctrine. Another aspect that has attracted the attention of the security forces is the signature of one of the writers, Abu Musad Al Suri, aka Mustafa Setmarian. He is one of the leaders of Al Qaeda and one of the main theorists of the jihadist movement. He is one of the greatest promoters of the individual terrorist figure, better known as ‘lone wolves’, which represents a major security concerns among Western countries. The researchers placed him as ‘Number Four’ in the leadership of Al Qaeda; he is married with a Spanish woman and he has Spanish passport. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2005 and handed over to U.S. authorities, who had a reward prize of $ 5 million for his capture. After supposedly being held for several years in secret prisons, is believed to have been delivered into Syria.

Turkish PvdA Members of Rotterdam District Council Resign

July 3 2013

 

The management board of the Rotterdam district council Feijenoord has resigned, following a report on the activities of Labour Party (PvdA) members of Turkish descent.

 

Turkish members of the district Labour Party leadership have allegedly participated in nepotism favoring Turkish residents and organizations, according to the Bureau for the Integrity of Netherlands Municipalities (BING). BING also names Seyit Yeyden, chairman of the Feijenoord executive, and two unnamed council members, as guilty of conflict of interest. The board announced its resignation in a letter to the district council.

To Muslim Intellectuals, Pope Francis represents the Opportunity for Dialogue.

The election of Pope Francis has been hailed as an invitation to dialogue from other religions. Euronews correspondent in Turkey met Cemal Usak, a Muslim intellectual, according to whom the new pope represents a new hope, “John Paul II was very open to dialogue, especially with Muslims. Pope Benedict, was, on the contrary, very closed – remember Usak – We can say that the confrontation between Muslims, Christians and other religions at the time of Benedict XVI was close to zero. For the first time we have a Jesuit Pope and this change is revolutionary. ” Islamic Conference Organization is hoping for a friendly relationship with the Catholic leadership. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, will also attend the inauguration of Pope, an invitation that has never happened before.

FCMF reform unites Muslim organisations

23.02.2013

Le Monde

The French Council of the Muslim Faith (FCMF) has with a large majority adopted a reform which democratically regulates its leadership and core body.  The organisation which was created in 2003 with the help of Nicolas Sarkozy, then French Secretary State, to represent  the millions of French Muslims quickly caused disunity and tension between the largest three groups that composed the FCMF. The last FCMF election in 2011 faced, as a result, a boycott by the Union of Islamic Organisations of France and the Grand Mosque of Paris which severely limited the legitimacy of the organisation. The FCMF’s reform is a compromise between the three major conflicting parties who now share leadership. The reform helps to democratise but also neutralise the FCMF in relation to state and society.