Turkey's Erdogan using Coronavirus crisis for religious propaganda? DITIB role in 'German Islamisation' alleged

DITIB, or the the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, controls 900 mosques in Germany and loosely represents 800,000 members.

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Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan using the coronavirus epidemic to boost Islamic propaganda inside Germany? That's an allegation raised by right wing think tank RAIR Foundation. An article on its website said Turkish Islamic organization DITIB has won a major victory in its efforts to extend influence in the country amid the coronavirus crisis. The publication came to this conclusion citing the fact that hundreds of mosques in Germany are now allowed to play the Muslim call to prayer through loudspeakers on top of minarets.

The article says that the influential DITIB successfully lobbied for the right to broadcast the Adhan prayer from loudspeakers, saying it would be a morale booster for Muslims in the country. The use of loudspeakers to broadcast the Adhan is not generally allowed in Germany. Media reports said the permission was granted in the backdrop of the virus rampage, and at the suggestion of some local Christian churches.

"The Muslim call to prayer could be heard from over 50 local mosques. The Adhan being broadcast by loudspeaker is generally not allowed in Germany, except for special occasions," Fahrettin Alptekin, a DITIB representative in Essen, Germany, said, according to siasat.com. "Our neighboring churches also asked if we would like to take part in this sign of solidarity every evening," another DITIB official said. "We said, we could support the Muslim community in a spiritual way through the call to prayer."

While the gesture by the local authorities in Germany looks quite normal, the post takes up cudgels with Erdogan, citing his aggressive stance against the assimilation of Turkish Muslims into the German society. "This is just one more victory in ErdoÄŸan's plan to Islamize Europe, seize control and ultimately re-establish the Ottoman Empire," the article says.

What did Erdogan say?

In a controversial speech he made in Cologne, Germany, while he was the prime minister of Turkey, Erdogan said the millions of Turks living in Germany need not assimilate into the German culture. "I understand very well that you are against assimilation. One cannot expect you to assimilate ... Assimilation is a crime against humanity," Erdogan told thousands of Turks living in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and France. The speech, which rankled nerves in Germany, was made in 2008. Several German politicians said Erdogan was preaching Turkish nationalism from German soil.

What is DITIB? How does it carry Erdogan's propaganda?

DITIB, or the the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, controls 900 mosques in Germany and loosely represents 800,000 members. It is the largest Islamic organization in Germany, which is also funded by the German federal government.

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has said in a report that imams affiliated with DITIB are trained in Ankara and classified as civil servants by the Turkish state. However, DITIB says it is independent of the Turkish government. It was also reported that the DITIB imams had spied on Turkish Muslims who had supported Fetullah Gulen, who the Turkish government said was behind the coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016.

Turkish President Erdogan with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

According to the German Bundestag, DITIB's charter states it is "linked to the Turkish government's Directorate of Religious Affairs, Diyanet. This directorate is entrusted with hiring and sending imams to German mosques and paying their salaries. "The Diyanet sends Turkish imams to DITIB mosques; the imams' salaries are then paid by the respective Turkish consulate general for the duration of their stay. In other words, the Diyanet determines the theological guidelines behind what is preached in the mosques," DW said in another report.

No-go zones, Sharia courts, polygamy and child marriages

'Islamisation' of Germany has been a dominant theme in recent years, ever since large scale immigration from the Middle East in the last decade bumped up the country's Muslim population to more than six million. A survey in 2016 showed that more than three million Turkish Muslims living in Germany thought it was more important to follow Islamic Sharia law than German law.

"Mass migration from the Muslim world is fast-tracking the Islamization of Germany, as evidenced by the proliferation of no-go zones, Sharia courts, polygamy and child marriages. Mass migration has also been responsible for a host of social disruptions, including jihadist attacks, a migrant rape epidemic, a public health crisis, rising crime and a rush by German citizens to purchase weapons for self-defense — and even to abandon Germany altogether," the Gatestone Institute said in its report titled 'The Islamization of Germany in 2016'.

Over the years, the German federal government has slashed its funding for DITIB. According to DW, in 2018, the association received about €300,000 ($353,500) from the government, but that was way below the €1.5 million it received in 2017.

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