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.

European Court of Justice decision on the veil: Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) fears tension

While presidential candidate Francois Fillon welcomed the European Court of Justice’s ruling on headscarves in the work place, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) expressed its “profound worry” regarding the ruling. It argued that the judgment gave “permission to discriminate” in workplaces. The CCIF denounced the ruling as “carrying heavy consequences” that represent “tensions within certain fringes of European societies.

The sentiment was shared by European Network Against Racism (ENAR). “It’s an extremely worrying decision because it excludes women wearing the veil from the working world.”

Manuel Valls ‘supports’ mayors who ban burkinis

In an interview with La Provence, Manuel Valls stated that he “understands” and “supports” the mayors who took steps to ban the burkini, which they judged to be “incompatible with the values of the Republic.”

“I understand the mayors, in this period of tension, who are looking for solutions to avoid disrupting public order,” he stated, insisting, “I support those who took steps, if they are motivated by a desire to encourage the vivre ensemble, without underlying political motivations.”

“The burkini is not is not a new style, a new fashion. It’s the translation of a political aim, against society, based in particular on the subservience of women.”

Equal job opportunities decline in France according to poll

October 23, 2013

 

According to a poll on the perception of equal opportunities in the workplace for the Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF), the largest union of employers in France,  the climate for equal opportunities has experienced a ” sharp decline” since 2012. Religious diversity in particular is seen as a problem according to Achouri Fatima, author of “The Muslim employee in France” and Pete Stone, founder of “Just different”, a firm that assists companies with their diversity policies.

The poll was commissioned by the MEDEF to respond to the question of equal opportunities in the workplace . The results reveal a real “tension within French society and differences between individuals.” The categories in which employees consider companies to be in the duty to primarily fight for more equality in regards to pay are, according to the survey, age (43%), gender (37%),disability(32%), religious belief (9%), provincial accentuation (7%) and political opinion (5%). The disparity between attention given to discrimination on the base of religion and race leaves a sober picture of the state of consciousness about racial and religious discrimination on the workplace in France.

 

Zaman France: http://www.zamanfrance.fr/article/legalite-chances-perd-terrain-en-france-5724.html?utm_source=newsletter-karisik-liste&utm_campaign=dd4799693f-Zamanfrance%2024_10_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_2d6e3a9a0e-dd4799693f-315948881

Italian man arrested for Anti-Islam graffiti while on vacation in France

August 14, 2013

An Italian was arrested during the night in Avignon, southern France, because he smeared the walls near the entrance to the historic Palace of the Popes with anti-Islam writings. The Le Parisien reported today, citing the deputy prosecutor of Avignon, Thierry Villardo. The man, in his thirties, has been identified thanks to surveillance cameras and he was stopped as he prepared to deface other walls with slogans against Muhammad. At least seven other similar writings were found in the city.

It seems that the young Italian has had an altercation with some men of North African origin before committing the act. “He had a fight with them” said the deputy attorney Villardo “and went to buy some spray paint, he is not necessarily a chronic racist and xenophobe; he was really angry.” The man is currently in police custody. The town hall of Avignon, the Papal Palace and the Bank of France have all filed a complaint against him, according to Le Parisien. Even the Observatory of Islamophobia in the French Council of the Muslim Faith has announced its intention to file a complaint for incitement to racial hatred.

Appearing in the afternoon before the court of Avignon, the tourist smeared the walls of the Palace of the Popes with anti-Islam writings. The ANSA reported the deputy prosecutor of Avignon, Thierry Villardo, stated that the young man, who was arrested on the night between Monday and Tuesday in Avignon, “regrets his action.” Francesco Cattaneo, 31, from the province of Como, arrived in Avignon on Monday morning; he was to continue to Spain, after a brief stay in Avignon.

Cattaneo, confirmed the deputy prosecutor suspicions that he acted “in anger” after having a dispute with a group of people from North Africa. From a psychological report it was found that the 31 year old had a “difficult past,” in the words of the deputy prosecutor, and that “he was not in full possession of his faculties.” Cattaneo could spend up to seven years in prison.

Double desecration
Writing insults to Muhammad on the walls of the Palace of the Popes of Avignon, the Italian tourist, who is in custody in the southern city of France, has committed a “double desecration” against the Prophet and against a symbol of Christianity said Mohamed Moussaoui, honorary president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith. The desecration “of the first name of the prophet, the greatest symbol of Islam, and also the desecration of one of the major places of Christianity,” said Moussaoui on radio France. He also condemned the act as “odious,” calling on Muslims to remain “vigilant but calm, know that extremism can thrive only in an atmosphere of tension.” Several acts added to the anti-Islam rhetoric in recent days. Just three days ago, a soldier was arrested while planning an attack on the mosque in Venissieux, a suburb of Lyon.

The violence of Trappes

Trappes police16.08.2013

Le Monde

A month after the two day riots of July 19 to 20, the French daily Le Monde re-narrates the story of France’s second suburban riot of the 21st century. The violence started following the stop and search of a 21-year-old Muslim woman in a niqab in the priority neighbourhood of Mersiers in Trappes (Yvelines). Her 20-year-old husband intervened when the police is alleged to have insulted the woman and was taken to the station for having attempted to strangulate one of the officers.  Like many other suburbs in the vicinity of Paris, the tension between youths and the police has been well established, but what made this summer’s riots however  distinct from others was the religious identity and solidarity which mobilized people and remained absent in previous episodes of urban violence. The paper continues to reason this religious force as the result of the growth of Islamophobia in front of the eyes of many of the neighbourhood’s residents who are of North African and Sub-Saharan origin. Few weeks prior to the 21-year-old Muslim woman’s stop and search, a number of stop and search actions of Muslim women have shocked the Muslim community and left deep traces of anxiety and anger amongst people.

Aggravated about the officer’s conduct and the arrest of her husband, the 21-year-old Muslim woman contacted her local mosque. Rumours about the most recent law enforcement against veiled Muslims women started to circulate amongst the community following Friday prayer. The local mosque is described by Le Monde as ultraorthodox in its preaching and tremendously popular amongst young Muslims who find ‘cohesion’ in the religious community. After Friday prayer, a group of 20 people, including the female victim, went to the police commissariat to demand the release of the husband. In the meanwhile, the Ministry of Internal Affairs interprets the chain of events differently. According to them, a group of Salafist were to be found in front of the commissariat. ‘Half of them’ were known to the police and are said to have threatened the authorities with actions

The tension couldn’t be ceased and the police ordered reinforcements. By 5 PM, representatives of the mosque arrived at the commissariat to calm the community in vain. A new protest was announced by 8.30 PM via SMS. It is believed that many of the protestors were mobilized by a number of SMS which circulated throughout the hours following the arrest. No calls for violence were, however, made.  At 8.30 PM some 150 people gathered in front of the commissariat which included residents of Trappes but also people from other areas of the Greater Parisian Region (Ile-de-France).

Anti-riot police arrived when the tension reached its climax. Three people approached the police when one police officer insulted men wearing traditional clothing. Mortar fireworks started to be shot from the crowds landing at the feet of the police. The riots suddenly began and took place over two days leading to multiple injuries and immense material damage.

For many residents of Cherries, the clashes of that night are the result of an almost inevitable social slippage. Since August 13, few weeks after the riots, a new path of approaching the Muslim community of Trappes has been introduced in local authorities

Is the Muslim call to prayer really such a menace?

The author Patrick Strudwick questions the outrage caused by Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan by likening it to the ever present BBC broadcasting of songs of praise on a Sunday. Songs of praise is aimed at the devout. Its purpose is clear: to call followers to prayer, to convert non-believers, to ring out across the land like an air-raid siren from on high. The programmes, for transmission on British terrestrial television, will, I fear, inflame community tensions; whip up divisions between religious groups and even spark hate crimes against its devotees. So let’s ban Songs of Praise. The BBC is set to continue its weekly indoctrination of impressionable young viewers with this vile, dangerous programme. Call it a publicity stunt; call it the deliberate provocation of right-thinking atheists, but this supposedly innocent show about Christians flaunting their religion with hymns – some of which contain such incitements to holy war as, “Onward, Christian soldiers… Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe” – exposes once and for all the sinister agenda of the BBC: to turn all our children Anglican.

 

The Sun, the Ukip, and Tory MP Conor Burns however are “Vibrating with indignation at a frequency inaudible to rational adults” over Channel 4’s decision to broadcast the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, every morning during Ramadan, which begins next Tuesday. A spokesman for Ukip said: “It will inflame community tension”. Burns called it “politically-correct tokenism”. They fear, seemingly, that so soon after the Woolwich murder, such chanting could prompt further Islamophobic attacks, entirely unaware that theirs is an Islamophobic attack and that censoring religious worship would gain the respect of Mao.

 

They seem ignorant too of the entirely obvious truism that the more people know of a culture, the greater our understanding of the complexities, rituals and history of a faith, the more irrational fear is neutralised. Their broadcast, in three-part disharmony, is a hymn for a very un-British hate.

Anti-fascists fuel the fire of hate

Last weekend, Tony Brett, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Oxford and the city’s deputy lord mayor, found what he called a “disgraceful rabble” of people climbing on the city’s main war memorial — squashing, he said, the flowers that mourners had placed there, then trying to remove half of them altogether and “jeering” other visitors as they paid their respects. That day, the memorial was supposed to be the scene of a wreath-laying by the far-Right, racist English Defence League. But neither Mr Brett, nor a local newspaper reporter on the scene, saw any sign of any EDL presence. All the hate Mr Brett said came from the self-appointed opponents of bigotry, a group called Unite Against Fascism (UAF). “It seemed to me they were doing exactly the kind of thing they were supposed to be protesting against,” said Mr Brett. “I will absolutely not support any hint of racism, Islamophobia or any other form of hate, be it from the EDL or any other group. That day I saw it from another group.” The Oxford branch of UAF said its members climbed on the memorial at the request of a photographer. “The EDL’s use of war memorials is an offence to all those who died fighting fascism,” it said in a statement. Since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby last month, there have reportedly been at least 107 arrests during BNP, EDL and UAF demonstrations. At least 69 of those arrested, just under two thirds, were anti-fascist demonstrators, at least 58 of them UAF.

 

Prominent campaigners such as the gay rights activist Peter Tatchell accuse UAF of a selective approach to bigotry. “UAF commendably opposes the BNP and EDL but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims,” said Mr Tatchell. “It is time the UAF campaigned against the Islamist far Right as well as against the EDL and BNP far Right.”

 

One reason why UAF will not campaign against Islamist extremists is that one of its own vice-chairmen, Azad Ali, is one. Mr Ali is also community affairs coordinator of the Islamic Forum of Europe, a Muslim supremacist group dedicated to changing “the very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed from ignorance to Islam”. Mr Ali has written on his blog of his “love” for Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda cleric closely linked to many terrorist plots, including the September 11 attacks, and used to attend talks by Abu Qatada, the extremist cleric whom Britain is seeking to deport. He has described al-Qaeda as a “myth” and denied that the Mumbai attacks were terrorism. On his blog, he also advocated the killing of British troops in Iraq. He sued a newspaper for reporting that he had said this, and lost.

 

The racist Right thrives on two things: publicity and the politics of victimhood. The mob outrage practised by UAF gets the fascists more of both. Mr Brett added: “It just antagonises the situation. The way to deal with this stuff is not to fight it aggressively. That’s exactly what they want you to do.” Nobody has denied that there has been an increase in tensions since the murder of Drummer Rigby. The danger is that by exaggerating it, and by the politics of confrontation, supposedly anti-racist groups fuel the very division, polarisation and tension they are supposed to counter.

NY Times Book Review: The Messenger and the Message

‘The First Muslim,’ by Lesley Hazleton

 

FirstMuslim-CoverIn today’s febrile cultural and religious climate, what project could be more fraught than writing a biography of Muhammad? The worldwide protests at “The Innocence of Muslims,” 14 minutes of trashy provocation posted on YouTube, are a terrible reminder to the would-be biographer that the life story of the prophet of Islam is not material about which one is free to have a “take.” Lesley Hazleton’s “First Muslim” is a book written by a white woman of dual American and British citizenship, published in America more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks. For many believers it is already — even before it is read, if it is read at all — an object of suspicion, something to be defended against, in case it should turn out to be yet another insult, another cruel parody of a story such an author has no business telling.

 

“The First Muslim” tells this story with a sort of jaunty immediacy. Bardic competitions are “the sixth-century equivalent of poetry slams.” The section of the Koran known as the Sura of the Morning has “an almost environmentalist approach to the natural world.” Theological ideas and literary tropes are “memes” that can go “viral.” Readers irritated by such straining for a contemporary tone will find it offset by much useful and fascinating context on everything from the economics of the Meccan caravan trade to the pre-Islamic lineage of prophets called hanifs, who promoted monotheism and rejected idolatry.

 

In the terms it sets itself, “The First Muslim” succeeds. It makes its subject vivid and immediate. It deserves to find readers. However, its terms are those of the popular biography, and this creates a tension the book never quite resolves. Though based on scholarship, it is not a scholarly work. Factual material from eighth- and ninth-century histories is freely mixed with speculation about Muhammad’s motives and emotions intended to allow the reader, in the quasi-therapeutic vocabulary that is the default register of so much mainstream contemporary writing, to “empathize” or better still, “identify with” him.

The new age of anti-terrorism

Le Monde

16.03.2013

A year after Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in Toulouse and its surroundings, the domestic anti-terrorist initiatives of the French intelligence services comes under criticism for the failures in the case.  With problems in information sharing, lack of coordination and rivalries, French attempts to combat terrorism are criticised in front of the Committee of Inquiry which assesses the state’s intelligence operation a year after the Merah incident.

The tension between a variety of intelligence organs such as the police and military intelligence, who are all in charge with the monitoring of radicalization amongst Muslims in France, have according to the Committee of Inquiry contributed to failed discovery of Merah’s radicalisation and assassination plans.

As a result, the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) assured last month in front of the Defence Committee of the French National Assembly to have reformed its services and widened its scope. In order to ease the coordination between intelligence cells, the position of a cross coordinator was created. Internal investigations have simultaneously led to the dismissal of several members of the intelligence service.

The case of a broader reform of the intelligence apparatus is expected to come to a conclusion by the end of March. Whilst reforms were introduced after the Merah incident, the judicial apparatus operated in full swing: accordingly, in 2012, 78 people were arrested in connection with the combat against jihadism in comparison to 47 in 2011. Thirty of them were referred to the public prosecutor in comparison to 21 a year before.

With transnational networks of jihadists rising, the fear of the intelligence apparatus to miss out on another case leads to increased scrutiny and harsher as well as quicker sentences being made.