Plans for Turkish schools in Germany spark political row

Plans to open three Turkish schools in Germany have sparked a row between the German government and conservative politicians over the perceived influence of the Turkish president on the country's three-million strong Turkish community, the Local news site reported on Saturday.

German government officials are currently in negotiations with their Turkish counterparts to open three private Turkish schools in Frankfurt, Cologne and Berlin, the Local said.

The planned more arrives as following years of debate over Turkish influence in German mosques.

The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Ditib), one of Germany’s largest Islamic organisations, was set up in 1984 as a branch of Turkey’s state-run Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). It funds around 900 mosques in Germany and boasts a membership of around 800,000. Ditib imams have been accused of working for Turkish intelligence.

The request for the schools comes just days after Ditib announced that it would begin training imams in Germany for the first time, the article said. 

"We don't want Erdogan schools in Germany," it quoted Markus Blume, general secretary of the Bavarian CSU, the sister party of Angela Merkel's ruling conservatives, as saying in an interview with media group RND on Saturday.

Critics such as Blume see the schools as more potential influence by Erdoğan over the Turkish diaspora, it said, but Ankara sees the proposal as a simple reciprocal move.

"There are German schools in Turkey and Turkey is asking to be treated similarly in Germany," according to Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Supporters of the project say Turkish has long been neglected in the German education system, despite the strong demand by the country’s largest ethnic minority group.

"For decades, German education authorities have failed to offer Turkish as an optional subject alongside other foreign languages," the article quoted chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany (TGD) Gokay Sofuoglu as telling Stuttgarter Zeitung newspaper.

Left Party politician Sevim Dagdelen warns of possible "indoctrination" in the schools, which she says could be used to propagate Erdoğan's political agenda.

"It has to be clear that anything taught at schools in Germany needs to be in line with our core values and laws," according to Germany's Integration Commissioner Annette Widmann-Mauz.
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