Germany to halt admission of Turkey-trained imams – DW – 12/14/2023

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A training program that posts Turkish imams to German mosques is to be phased out as Germany looks to train its own Muslim clerics in a bid to encourage integration, the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

Under a new agreement between the ministry, Turkish religious authority Diyanet and Turkish-Islamic umbrella group DITIB, about 100 imams are to be trained each year in the western town of Dahlem.

These imams will gradually replace the approximately 1,000 clerics which were trained and employed by the Turkish Diyanet.

“We need religious leaders who speak our language, know our country and stand up for our values,” German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement.

“We want imams to get involved in the dialogue between religions and discuss questions of faith in our society,” Faeser said.

According to the German Islam Conference (DIK), there are about 5.5 million Muslims living in Germany, or roughly 6.6% of the population. “This is an important milestone for the integration and participation of Muslim communities,” Faeser said.

Germany has about 2,500 mosque communities, 900 of which are managed by DITIB. A branch of the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Ankara, DITIB is the largest Islamic association in Germany but it has been accused of acting as an extended arm of the Turkish government.

A Taliban member spoke at a Cologne mosque

The latest DITIB controversy came when an Afghan Taliban member spoke at one of the organization’s mosques in the western city of Cologne last month.

In 2017, German officials called on DITIB to undertake fundamental reforms following allegations that imams sent by Diyanet had spied on behalf of Ankara in the wake of the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Diyanet denied any involvement and a probe was closed without any charges brought.

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel first spoke in favor of training imams on German soil in 2018, telling parliament that it “will make us more independent and is necessary for the future.”

The training of the 100 imams per year in Germany will take place as part of the existing DITIB program, as well as through an additional program, the ministry said. To this end, it said it sought “cooperation with the German College of Islam” in Osnabrück.

mf/lo (Reuters, AFP)

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