The German government will no longer be funding projects run with the country’s largest Islamic umbrella group, the Interior Ministry in Berlin said on Thursday.
Since the start of the year, the federal government has not approved any funding for the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which has been marred by a series of controversies. Funding has also been halted for projects in 2019.
Most of the German government funding for DITIB has involved support for counter-extremism programs and aiding refugees. About €6 million ($6.9 million) has been provided to the group since 2012. The Family Ministry has also stopped approving projects with DITIB at the end of last year.
The Cologne-based Islamic umbrella group runs more than 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet, which provides imams to DITIB mosques.
In the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey, the DITIB has been accused of acting as the long arm of the Turkish state.
Some imams are alleged to have acted on the orders of Turkish diplomatic posts to spy on followers of the Gulen movement, which Ankara blames for the failed coup bid.
Read more – Turkey’s Gulen movement on the rise in Germany
In another scandal, DITIB imams reportedly called on worshippers to pray for a Turkish military victory against Syrian Kurds in Afrin.
DITIB again came under fire in April for holding a military reenactment involving Turkish flags and fake guns handed to children “martyrs.”
Last year, DITIB controversially refused to take part in an anti-terrorism march in Cologne.
“Those who spread nationalism, hatred of Christians, Jews or people of no religious affiliation and spy here at the behest of the Turkish government cannot be a partner in the fight against religious extremism in Germany,” Christoph de Vries, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) on internal affairs, told Bild newspaper on Thursday.
Cooperation between DITIB is primarily a matter for the individual federal states, with the federal government promoting only certain projects. A number of states have already distanced themselves from DITIB.
Sevim Dagdelen, the deputy parliamentary head of Die Linke, called for federal states to cut all ties with DITIB and for the Islamic group’s charity tax status to be reexamined.
“The federal government and the federal states must stop cooperation at all levels with Erdogan’s outpost in Germany. It must be examined whether the preferential tax treatment of the association can be further justified. DITIB is not charitable, but a danger to the public,” the politician of Kurdish origin said in a statement.
cw/xx (dpa, epd, KNA)