Ankara’s long arm? German DİTİB branch embroiled in a spying affair targeting Gülenists

A deteriorating relationship

In recent months, the relationship between German authorities and DİTİB, the country’s largest and Turkish-dominated Muslim association, has taken a severe drubbing.

For close to three decades, DİTİB used to be the German government’s preferred cooperation partner in Islamic religious affairs: outsourcing the religious needs of the country’s Muslim population to DİTİB, a subsidiary of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), was a convenient way to ensure that a quietist albeit conservative Islamicality was propagated in DİTİB’s 1,000 mosques in Germany.

Yet especially since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, DİTİB has fallen out of favour. As diplomatic relations between Germany and the Erdoğan government have soured, German politicians have been accusing DİTİB of being a pawn of the Turkish government. As a result, calls have been voiced demanding an end to the cooperation with DİTİB in areas such as Islamic religious education for Muslim youth attending public schools.

DİTİB’s role in the anti-Gülenist crackdown

DİTİB’s German critics have now received ample new ammunition in their fight. The press has analysed DİTİB’s bylaws, pointing to the extensive prerogatives enjoyed by Turkish government representatives, especially with regards to personnel choices.(( http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/satzung-des-islamverbands-ditib-tuerkische-funktionaere.886.de.html?dram:article_id=375487 ))

Even more momentously, however, DİTİB has been embroiled in a spying affair targeting suspected sympathisers of the Gülenist hizmet movement. The Turkish government holds the Gülen responsible for orchestrating July’s coup attempt. Some of DİTİB’s Imams have apparently followed an order by Diyanet to gather information on Gülen supporters in their localities, passing on their findings to Turkish authorities.

DİTİB had already been scrutinised for its role in anti-Gülenist agitation in the immediate aftermath of the attempted putsch. Back then, flyers defaming Gülenists as “traitors of the fatherland” had been put up in a DİTİB mosque. At the time, the backlash faced by DİTİB prompted the association to vow greater independence from the Turkish government.

Reports sent back to Ankara

Such independence, however, appears difficult to attain for DİTİB. In September 2016, Diyanet “urgently requested” Turkish consulates abroad to collect information on the Gülen organisation and its schools, housing units, NGOs, or cultural associations.

Some of DİTİB’s Imams appear to have followed up on these orders: at least three clerics from Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Lower Saxony compiled reports on suspected Gülenist activities in their regions and sent them back to Ankara.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/ditib-erdogan-101.html ))

Basing himself on the content of these reports, Green Party politician Volker Beck has now filed a lawsuit against DİTİB with the Federal Prosecutor, accusing DİTİB of having illegally spied on supposed Gülenists living in Germany.

DİTİB’s shifting reaction to the allegations

DİTİB initially denied the spying accusations as “remote from reality” and as the product of a “manipulative and untrue” anti-DİTİB campaign.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2016/12/15/ditib-imame-unter-verdacht/ )) Subsequently, however, the secretary general of DİTİB in Germany, Bekir Alboğa, conceded that some DİTİB Imams had collected and passed on information.

Alboğa stressed, however, that this was not a systematic policy but the result of the “misguided” action of a few Imams only. He asserted that DİTİB “deeply regrets this mishap”.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/ditib-bedauert-spitzel-affaere-aid-1.6528628 ))

In a follow-up statement on DİTİB’s website, Alboğa then denied that his statements constituted an admission of “spying”. He asserted that his organisation was “continuing to strive for a transparent resolution” of the case.(( http://www.ditib.de/detail1.php?id=560&lang=de ))

Defending DİTİB

Other voices from the Muslim and Turkish community have also commented these developments. When the spying accusations were first made public in December 2016, the secretary general of the Islamic Community Millî Görüş (IGMG), Bekir Altaş, came to DİTİB’s defence, asserting that DİTİB’s Imams “deserved respect and recognition”.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2016/12/15/ditib-imame-unter-verdacht/ ))

The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD), Gökay Sofuoğlu, demanded that potential spying activities be investigated. Yet he also asserted that DİTİB was made up of “many people and a large number of officials” seeking to change the organisation’s structures for the better. Not all of them ought to be tarred with the same brush, or so Sofuoğlu asserted.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/ditib-erdogan-101.html ))

Political ramifications

The Federal Prosecutor himself has been slow to act upon the lawsuit brought against DİTİB. This has sparked the anger of Beck and others, who accuse the Prosecutor of pandering to political interests.

In their view, delaying investigations into DİTİB’s activities might be a means to prevent further damage to German-Turkish relations – relations particularly salient in a context where German politicians depend on President Erdoğan for sealing the border to Europe in order to stem the flow migrants.(( http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/ditib-erdogan-101.html ))

Indeed, political decision-makers themselves have not dramatically altered their stance vis-à-vis DİTİB. The North-Rhine Westphalian (NRW) state government, for instance, long at the forefront of a more ambitious cooperation between German authorities and DİTİB, expressed its will to continue its work with DİTİB in spite of the spying affair.(( http://www.taz.de/Islamverband-entschuldigt-sich/!5371091/ ))

Erosion of legitimacy of Muslim associations

Nevertheless, even the NRW government announced the formation of a commission of inquiry into DİTİB’s linkages with the Turkish state. And NRW’s Minister President, Hannelore Kraft, also rejected DİTİB’s ambitions to be formally recognised as a religious community or a corporation of public law.(( http://www.taz.de/Islamverband-entschuldigt-sich/!5371091/ ))

Many Christian churches as well as other religious bodies are holders of these formal legal titles, which confer a host of financial, social, and political benefits set to facilitate the religious life of these communities.

Despite being the country’s second-largest faith group, Muslims have so far not been able to obtain such recognition, with the exception of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat in the state of Hesse. DİTİB’s embroilment in the anti-Gülenist spying affair further erodes the legitimacy of Germany’s Islamic associations and thus hampers the ability of German Muslims to attain legal parity within the country’s legal framework.

New Reports from the Andalusian Observatory

21 June 2013

 

The Andalusian Observatory presented at the library of the Central Mosque of Abu-Bakr in Madrid, the Annual General Education Report Annex (2012), the 2012 Report on Islamophobia incidents in Spain and the Special Report on Islamophobia incidents.

Annual General Education Report Conclusions:

  1. The Muslims students represent approximately 3% of the total of students in Spain;
  2. 35% of the Muslim students are Spanish and 65% are immigrants (50% Moroccan and 15% of other nationality);
  3. 95% of the Muslim students does not have religious classes at school;
  4. 90% of the Islamic Religious teachers are unemployed.

 

The 2012 Report on Islamophobia incidents conclusions:

  1. The Spanish society in general accepts the Muslim presence, while a remaining percentage (which varies according to different places), does not accept it.
  2. The opening of Mosques, in some localities, is involved in polemics, obstacles and Islamophobic opposition and hostility.

 

The 2012 Special Report on Islamophobia incidents conclusions:

 

  1. Muslims related concepts are still used in an abusive and indiscriminate way by the media.
  2. Negative stereotypes (public disorder, ideological extremism, problems of coexistence, violence, terrorism, etc) disseminated by political platforms, and amplified by the media, are causing fear in the Spanish population.
  3. The State needs to be more active in the normalization of religion and also in promoting greater social cohesion.
  4. The report gives descriptions of islamophobic incidents in Spain

 

In 2003 the ‘Andalusian Observatory’ was born as an autonomous body of the Union of Islamic Communities in Spain. It is a non-profit ‘institution for observation and monitoring of the situation of Muslim citizen and Islamophobia in Spain “.
http://www.ucide.org/es/content/observatorio

Reports:

isj_2012

ia2012_1

estadalumnos12-p

LAPD gets new guidelines for handling ‘Suspicious Activity Reports’

The L.A. Police Commission has approved rules for handling ‘Suspicious Activity Reports’ that offer some safeguards against racial profiling and reporting of activity protected by the 1st Amendment.

 

In Los Angeles, as elsewhere in this country, fear of enemies in our midst — be they Communists, trade unionists or foreign terrorists — too often has led to violations of the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Given that history, civil libertarians and members of the Muslim community were right to press the Los Angeles Police Department to ensure that a program designed to detect possible terrorist activity doesn’t cast suspicion on individuals whose only “offense” is to exercise their right to free speech or belong to a particular ethnic or religious group.

 

The result is an amended set of guidelines approved by the city Police Commission for the handling of “Suspicious Activity Reports.” Though the new guidelines don’t go as far as the American Civil Liberties Union would like, they make it less likely that police will record the identities of persons whose conduct is neither criminal nor reasonably suggestive of possible terrorist connections. That’s an important step forward.

 

So-called SARs are controversial because they are not limited to criminal activity; they can also be filed if a person behaves in a manner that, while legal, may be suspicious — such as abandoning luggage in a railway station or taking photographs of a power plant.

 

The new policy reaffirms that racial profiling has no place in documenting suspicious activity, provides for regular audits of the SARs program and proposes a community advisory board to help ensure against abuse. The policy advises officers against reporting activity generally protected by the 1st Amendment “unless additional facts and circumstances can be clearly articulated that support an officer’s or agency’s determination that the behavior observed is reasonably indicative of criminal activity associated with terrorism or other criminal activity.”

The Islamic Community will open a Mosque in Zona Norte, Alicante

28 July 12
After a long administrative process the Islamic Community of Alicante has obtained from the Town Planning Management a license to reform a building into a mosque on Pino Santo Street, in the neighborhood of Virgen del Remedio.
The training, administrative and prayer center had caused the rejection of the neighbors, but ultimately the City Council authorized its construction because the project meets the municipal and technical requirements.
Planning Reports specifies that the capacity of this religious and cultural center will be of 581 people, while recalling that prior to the granting of the license it shall submit it to an acoustic audit.

LAPD to alter policy on data possibly related to terrorism

Reports on suspicious activity determined to be harmless will be deleted. They had been stored in a database for a year, sparking fears that the information could wind up with the federal government.

In the face of privacy concerns, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to change the way it collects information on suspicious activity possibly related to terrorism.

The department, after coming under fire from civil liberties and community groups, will no longer hold on to so-called suspicious activity reports that the LAPD’s counter-terrorism unit determines are about harmless incidents.

Until now, the department stored the innocuous reports in a database for a year. That gave rise to worries among critics of the reporting program that personal information about people who had done nothing wrong could be entered inappropriately into the federal government’s vast network of counter-terrorism databases and watch lists.

Amnesty Reports on Discrimination Against Muslims in the Netherlands

24 April 2012

 

A new report by Amnesty International reveals that Muslims face discrimination in the Netherlands and other European countries. The report notes that Muslims face particular discrimination in education and on the job market, and addresses the pending ban on the burqa on the grounds of public safety. Also addressing discrimination in Spain, Switzerland, Belgium and France, the report adds that governments should dispel misconceptions about their Muslim population, though also stressing that criticism of Islam within the bounds of freedom of speech is not the same as ‘specific discriminatory patterns’ against Muslims.

Le Figaro Reports that 70% of French Muslims will Fast during Ramadan, many young people

With the beginning of Ramadan, Le Figaro reports that almost 70% of French Muslims will fast, many of them in the concentrated suburbs. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Mosque of Paris, notes that since the 1990s, young people especially are evident in their Ramadan participation. A 2004 report suggested that fasting has had negative effects on the ability of students to perform in public schools.

Le Figaro Reports that 70% of French Muslims will Fast during Ramadan, many young people

With the beginning of Ramadan, Le Figaro reports from an IFOP survey that almost 70% of French Muslims will fast, many of them in the concentrated suburbs. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Mosque of Paris, notes that since the 1990s, young people especially are evident in their Ramadan participation. A 2004 report suggested that fasting has had negative effects on the ability of students to perform in public schools.

Double Standards: Little Outcry Over China’s Uighurs, Anger of Muder in Germany

The fatal stabbing of an Egyptian Muslim woman in a German courtroom two weeks ago sparked anger across the Muslim world and fueled demands for a formal apology from Germany. But while the region rages about the story of the “headscarf martyr,” holding her up as a symbol of persecution, the plight of China’s Muslim population has provoked a more muted response. On July 5 police cracked down on a demonstration by minority Muslim Uighurs in the city of Urumqi, capital of China’s western Xinjiang region. Hundreds of Uighur young men rioted, attacking majority Han Chinese civilians with knives, clubs and bricks. In the end authorities say 137 Hans, 46 Uighurs and one member of the Chinese Muslim Hui ethnic group were killed. But, says Diaa Rashwan, a political analyst at the government-backed Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, “there is not a lot of interest or attention paid to these events in the Arab and Muslim world.” ABIGAIL HAUSLOHNER REPORTS.

Muslim Group Reports Jump in Workplace Bias Complaints

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released a report this week outlining 2,652 incidents and experiences of anti-Muslim violence, discrimination, and harassment that occurred in 2007. These numbers reflect the highest number of civil rights cases ever recorded in the group’s report. The higher number is due in part to the inclusion of a new category related to mailed, faxed, and e-mailed messages of hatred or harassment. The study also found that discrimination in the workplace against the already employed increased by eighteen percent – with 452 cases reported in the United States in 2007, compared to 383 in 2006. Cases involving those seeking employment jumped a significant thirty-four percent.

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