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.

Sexual violence, criminality, and immigration: Germany discusses how to report on immigrants’ criminal offences

With the Berlin Christmas market attack, security questions have become dominant on the German political scene. Especially the domain of immigration law is becoming more securitised by the day as politicians propose more restrictive immigration policies, as well as greater scope for surveillance operations on the part of intelligence agencies.

Beyond the Berlin attack, however, a range of other incidents and developments continue to feed into this securitisation dynamic. Among them are not just the large-scale sexual assaults that occurred in Cologne and other German cities on New Year’s Eve 2015/2016, but also an increasingly agitated discussion on crime and criminality among refugees and asylum-seekers in general.

Sexual assaults

A milestone in this regard has been the highly mediatised case of the rape and murder of a 19-year old student by a 17-year old Afghan refugee in the city of Freiburg. To many, this case – especially as it came after a series of other rapes and acts of violence in the Freiburg region – demonstrated the direct linkage between increased immigration and a worsening security situation.(( http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/mord-an-studentin-in-freiburg-risse-im-idyll-a-1124344.html ))

The case gained added salience due to the fact that, like the 17-year-old Afghan who had attacked the passengers of a regional train near Würzburg in July, the perpetrator of Freiburg was living in a local host family. He thus appeared to have all the possibilities to integrate and build a successful life in Germany.

Since then, two other high-profile cases of assault against women have come to light: in Bochum, a 31-year-old Iraqi asylum-seeker apparently raped and grievously injured two students of the local university.(( http://www1.wdr.de/nachrichten/ruhrgebiet/neue-details-nach-sexuellen-uebergriffen-in-bochum-100.html )) And in Hameln, a Kurdish man tied his wife to the back of his car by a rope around her neck and drove off, dragging her through the town’s streets.(( http://www.huffingtonpost.de/2016/11/21/hamel-bluttat-auto-schlei_n_13122450.html ))

Difficult reporting decisions

The media have been placed under close scrutiny with respect to their reporting strategies in the aftermath of these events. In a controversial move, Germany’s most-watched nightly TV news magazine, the Tagesschau running at 8 pm on the ARD public broadcaster, initially chose not to mention the arrest of the 17-year-old Afghan charged with raping and killing the Freiburg student.

The network subsequently justified this decision by arguing that the Tagesschau “only very rarely reports on individual criminal cases” because as a national-level news magazine, it is focused on “societally, nationally, and internationally relevant events. A murder case does not number among such events.”(( http://blog.tagesschau.de/2016/12/04/der-mordfall-von-freiburg/ ))

The news magazine’s head editor, Kai Gniffke, asserted that his programme “cannot and does not want to report on every single one of the around 300 murder cases per year (although it is interesting to note that this number has dramatically decreased over the course of the last 15 years).”(( http://blog.tagesschau.de/2016/12/04/der-mordfall-von-freiburg/ ))

Harsh criticism of editorial choices

The criticism directed at the Tagesschau’s editorial desk for its decision not to discuss the case was, nevertheless, fierce. It came not only from the right-wing fringe but also from outlets such as the mainstream conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

In a vitriolic commentary on the matter, the paper asserted that the Tagesschau’s unwillingness to report on the case justified labelling the ARD public broadcaster “Lückenpresse”—‘lacunae press’, or ‘press with gaps’. This constitutes an unabashed reference to the slogan “Lügenpresse” (‘liar’s press’), a term of disparagement of the ‘mainstream media’ with a strong National Socialist legacy that today is widespread among partisans of the new populist right.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/medien/tagesschau-berichtet-nicht-ueber-ermordete-studentin-in-freiburg-14560129-p2.html ))

The fact that one of the country’s major respectable newspapers should so openly accuse another standard media outlet of being complicit in a pro-immigrant cover-up mandated by political elites demonstrates the extent to which populist language and demands have seeped into public debates.

Scrutinising empirical data

As a result, there is now an expectation that any serious crime committed by a refugee or asylum-seeker must be reported on immediately. Crimes perpetrated by immigrants are thus deemed more newsworthy and more dangerous than crimes committed by ethnic Germans.

At the same time, empirical data on the actual number of offences committed by asylum-seekers or refugees has scarcely figured in these debates. According to numbers released by the Federal Criminal Police Office, 5.7 per cent of all suspects involved in criminal cases in 2015 were asylum-seekers or other individuals without residence status.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/zuwanderer-und-kriminalitaet-mord-in-freiburg-ein-absoluter-ausnahmefall-1.3291719.

In Germany, these other persons without official residence status include not just ‘illegal’ immigrants. They also include more than 150,000 individuals under the peculiar legal regime of ‘Duldung’ (literally ‘toleration’ in English). Duldung merely connotes the temporary suspension of deportation; consequently, ‘geduldete’ individuals do not have access to most of the state’s social and financial services, no right to work, and no right to participate in integration courses. Their freedom of movement is restricted to their locality.))

The most common offence with which these individuals have been charged is theft, amounting to a quarter of all criminal cases, followed by fare evasion on public transport (17 per cent). Another quarter of cases concern bodily harm, aggravated theft, or coercion. Sexual offences amount to 1.3 per cent of all cases.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlinge-bka-bericht-fluechtlinge-begehen-weniger-straftaten-1.3315641 ))

Make-up of perpetrators and victims

94 per cent of the interpersonal violence is directed at other immigrants.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlinge-bka-bericht-fluechtlinge-begehen-weniger-straftaten-1.3315641 )) Especially Germany’s overcrowded refugee shelters have often been identified as conducive to outbreaks of violence.

Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans – collectively making up two thirds of immigrants – are responsible for only 33 per cent of criminal offences perpetrated. Conversely, immigrants from the Balkans and from the Maghreb countries are over-represented among criminal suspects.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlinge-bka-bericht-fluechtlinge-begehen-weniger-straftaten-1.3315641 ))

Overall, in the first three quarters of 2016, immigrants were involved in 214,600 criminal offences. Over the course of these three quarters of the year, the number of crimes recorded dropped by 23 per cent, potentially reflecting a growing degree of settledness of the newly arrived migrants. Over the same time period, 67,300 anti-immigrant crimes were recorded.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/fluechtlinge-bka-bericht-fluechtlinge-begehen-weniger-straftaten-1.3315641 ))

Making sense of the numbers

Experts have remained cautious as to which conclusions to draw from these shifting and volatile numbers. Importantly, criminologists point to the need to tackle widespread impoverishment, especially with respect to the Balkans and North Africa: migrants from these regions are drawn into the powerful crime and mafia networks headquartered in their home countries; and participation in these networks is one of the few reliable sources of a stable income.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/zuwanderer-und-kriminalitaet-mord-in-freiburg-ein-absoluter-ausnahmefall-1.3291719-2 ))

Against this backdrop, recent cutbacks to social and financial support given to immigrants are seen in a sceptical light: whilst these restrictions are ostentatiously aimed at curbing the influx of migrants by disincentivising the perilous and expensive journey to Germany, they might jeopardise the ability of already arrived refugees to build a stable life in the country and thus to do without the networks of organised crime.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/zuwanderer-und-kriminalitaet-mord-in-freiburg-ein-absoluter-ausnahmefall-1.3291719-2 ))

Speaking on the Muslim debating programme Forum am Freitag, sociologist Ahmet Toprak highlighted that the perpetrators of violent crimes, particularly sex offences, generally share a set of characteristics—across all ethnic or religious divides. Aside from psychopathological diseases these characteristics include social isolation, lack of education, a history of violence running in the family, as well as intense experiences of violence during childhood and adolescence.(( https://www.zdf.de/kultur/forum-am-freitag/forum-am-freitag-vom-16-dezember-2016-fluechtlinge-und-gewalt-100.html ))

Putting crime into perspective

Empirical figures as well as sociological and criminological studies thus put into perspective the alarmist language on crime and criminality supposedly emanating from refugees and immigrants. Yet they also highlight particular problem areas.

Immigrants driven from their countries of origin by poverty and lack of economic opportunity with slim chances of obtaining a residence permit in Germany are more likely to become enmeshed in crime. This is particularly true if these criminal organisations already have a strong presence in the home countries (and are perhaps even the ones who can facilitate and finance the travel of migrants to Germany and Europe).

Moreover (and even more difficultly), among the many immigrants fleeing war and persecution, there might very well be a certain number whose own biographies of violence and dislocation make them more prone to the commission of violent acts. This is of course not the same as claiming that, for instance, ‘Afghans as such’ are criminals.

Yet such nuance might be difficult to maintain in a context in which the failure to explicitly ‘name and shame’ a sex offender if he is an immigrant is lambasted as complicity in political correctness.

French anti-jihad video reaches nearly one million views

Launched at the end of January, the online government clip, which is meant to counter jihadist propaganda on social media, has received nearly 1 million views on YouTube and Dailymotion. According to The Parisien, including Twitter and Facebook, the video has garnered more than 1.9 million views. This is a success for the campaign, which uses the hashtag #Stopdjihadisme.

“The idea is to provide a counter-discourse that corrects sectarianism and provides correct information,” explained Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve. Almost 80 French jihadists have been killed during terrorist operations in Syria and Iraq, and close to 1,400 have been identified as having links to these networks.

80 French jihadists have been killed in Syria and Iraq

Eighty “Frenchmen or French residents” who left French soil to participate in jihad in Iraq and Syria have been killed thus far, stated Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“There are already close to 1,4000 people who have been identified, Frenchmen or residents, as having ties to these networks. Around 750 are fighting or have left to fight, 410 are in France, 260 have come back,” he stated.

On January 19 Paris prosecutor Francois Molins announced that 1,280 people “were either in transit, were on location, were coming back or had already come back to France.” On January 22, Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve stated that there had been 73 Frenchmen killed in Syria and in Iraq. “As long as we have this situation which persists in Syria, in Iraq, in the Near and Middle East, we know we will have these [jihadist] candidates.”

Controversial mosque allowed to be build in Gouda

Although the town council of Gouda has yet to agree on the matter, the College of Mayors and Aldermen have decided that the so-called ‘mega mosque’ is allowed to be build. Despite criticism from people in the neighbourhood. Political party CDA (Christian Democratic Appel) is ‘astonished’, because at this point there is still an investigation going on with regards to the funding of the mosque. There exists namely a fear that a lot of funding is coming from international Salafi networks, which is being denied by the College itself.

Why citizens of Gouda don’t want a ‘mega mosque’

Citizens in the neighbourhood where this so-called ‘mega mosque’ is planned being build are not happy with this plan.

Edward Uittenbroek is one of the initiators of ‘Gouda Noord zoals het Hoort’ [‘Gouda North, how it should be’] and is worried about a dense Islamic concentration in the neighbourhood. Because this mosque ought not only to be a mosque but an Islamic centre as well, providing space for 1500 visitors.
Besides that, more con’s are being heard. The mosque, if its build, will share its location with institutions for autistic and handicapped persons. People are questioning if it’s a good idea that a busy Islamic centre will share its location with institution where a calm environment is preferred.

The mosque will be build on a old barrack site and some people are afraid that an underground bunker will be used by returnees from Syria. The municipality however denies that such a bunker even exists.

Other critiques or fears are: a decline in the value of the houses in this area, a suspicious funding of this mosque (by international Salafi networks), possible traffic problems and ‘hate preaches’.

In France, five terror attacks thwarted, networks broken

France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.
France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.

France’s top security official announced that the country has thwarted five terror attacks and dismantled 13 networks affiliated with radical groups in Syria, but stated that the number of young people leaving to become foreign fighters has doubled in the past year.

There are more foreign fighters from France leaving to join extremist groups than from any other European country. France’s government is worried that these fighters will pose security threats when they return to the country.

Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve affirmed the government’s commitment to stopping radical networks, but stated that 1,200 Frenchmen have already left for Syria. There are currently 400 in the war zone and 200 travelling.

Since August 2013 the government has stopped five attacks but would not state if they were attempted by returning fighters or those who had not left.

In December 2014 two women and their children were prevented from leaving Paris when they attempted to travel to Turkey with the intention of joining an extremist group in Syria.

Cazeneuve also stated that a third of would-be jihadis are converts.

French teenage girl caught heading for Syria jihad

March 2, 2014

 

A 14-year-old French girl was stopped at Lyon Airport, apparently heading for Syria to wage jihad. She is the third French minor to be found trying to fight holy war against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Earlier this week the girl, from the French city of Grenoble, told her parents via text message that she had been selected to join the jihad war in Syria and had run away from home. She was detained before boarding a plane bound with a one-way ticket for Istanbul, from where she intended to go to the Syrian border.

Investigators describe her as “heavily indoctrinated” and say that she keeps repeating that she was going to Turkey as a tourist.  Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar, author of the book Defusing Radical Islam, says the indoctrination of vulnerable teens has increased through the use of social networks and the internet .In her book , she explains how youth indoctrination linked to Islamism is a growing phenomenon in France

“I’ve been working on indoctrination techniques by radical Islamist for 10 years new,” she told RFI. “They used to affect only young and rather fragile people. Today they affect individuals from any social and family environment, people of any religion, atheists, agnostics, whether they practice their religion or not, poor, rich, privileged, educated … Anyone, really.”

About 700 French nationals are believed to have gone to fight in Syria. Two teenagers were brought back to France from Turkey in January.

“French society and politicians have failed to differentiate sect-like indoctrination and brainwashing by radical Islamists and Islam as a religion,” comments Bouzar. “That has led to many errors in appreciation and interpretation which have only been to the religious radicals’ advantage.”

The government is drawing up measures to tackle jihadi networks and intends to establish a for families to notify the authorities if their children seem to be becoming radicalised, so that they are prevented from leaving the country without their parents’ permission.

 

Source: http://www.english.rfi.fr/france/20140302-french-teenage-girl-caught-heading-syria-jihad

VIDEO: Muslims and Jews Vow to Stand Up for Each Other, Build Global Movement of Reconciliation

There is a widely accepted belief that Muslims and Jews are enemies and will always remain so. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

For the past six years The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding has not only challenged this narrative, but has facilitated a global dialogue between Muslims and Jews that is taking place on all six populated continents.

This Muslim-Jewish dialogue is our annual Weekend of Twinning which encourages joint Muslim and Jewish programming on the grassroots level in every community across the world where Muslims and Jews reside.

Our efforts reveal the actual harmony that exists between these two faiths and peoples and here is a video that we produced with Unity Productions Foundation, which documents this global Muslim Jewish coalition that is vowing to stand up for one another by combating Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred.

Join our movement by sharing this message with your networks via social media, email, or word of mouth.

 

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-marc-schneier/

Video: http://youtu.be/vEHVannOkj8

Young Muslims and social networks

November 16, 2013

 

Social networks such as Facebook are becoming as popular among Muslim youth as among all parts of the society. However protecting data and youth privacy associations are concerned about the amount of misinformation distributed in the digital world. Conservative Muslims warn Muslim users to avoid visiting websites, which would lead to what is described in the Koran as “Fitna”, meaning the loss of faith.

German Salafists such as the populist Pierre Vogel use facebook to address young Muslims. Having more than 10.000 Facebook fans, they call female Muslims to upload photos with the the niqab only. Their face should is supposed to be covered in public.

According to Akif Sahin, a social media manager in Hamburg, Muslim youth are vulnerable to misinformation and negative influences diffused by extremists – especially as young Muslims search for guidance on their religious and cultural identity. This aspect is often abused by extremists, such as Islamist and Islamophobe groups, which would begin to agitate Muslims against each other.

 

Spiegel: http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/web/muslime-auf-facebook-keine-angst-vorm-fitnabook-a-933570.html