Jan 03 2019

No such thing as European Islam - Turkey’s top Muslim official

Turkey’s main Islamic body in Germany hosted a meeting in Cologne this week to shape the continuing debate about the future of Muslims in Europe, Turkish pro-government news outlets Diaspora Daily and Yeni Şafak reported.

“There is no such thing as German, French or European Islam,” Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s state religious authority, the Diyanet, said on Wednesday. “Islam is a religion of peace that defends and tries to keep the same universal values alive all over the world.”

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, or DITIB, organised the two-day event. Germany’s largest Muslim body, DITIB runs more than 900 mosques. The former Diyanet branch is still largely run by Ankara, though it insists it is independent. DITIB is based in the Cologne Central Mosque, which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan inaugurated during a visit to Germany in September.

Last week the German tabloid Bild ran an image of the mosque with a story on how terrorist money funded Germany’s mosques. Critics said the report could spur anti-Muslim attacks.

“Both printed and visual media have been advocating Islamophobia under the pretext of criticism,” Erbaş said in Cologne, while also urging the European Muslim community to eliminate internal rifts.

The Cologne gathering appeared to be DITIB’s response to the German government’s Islam Conference held in Berlin in November. Pork dishes were served and secular-minded Muslims were allowed to speak, as Germany pressed DITIB to cut ties with Turkey as part of a broader effort to end foreign funding for religious groups in Germany. Last week, the German government said it was considering a mosque tax for the country’s Muslims, similar to the church tax paid by its Christians.

“Turkish Muslim institutions should be independent,” Fared Hafez, a political science professor from Georgetown University, said at the Cologne gathering. “They should not be acting like Turkish embassies. But that does not mean they should cut ties with Turkey. They have the right to maintain ties with homeland as Catholic community for example maintains ties with Vatican.”