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Jan 20 2019

Germany calls DITIB to cut ties with Turkey

German politicians called Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) to be independent of Ankara, Deutsche Welle reported on Saturday. 

The close relationship between DITIB and Ankara has been in the focus of German politicians during the week. In early January, DITIB launched a fresh image with a motto of "a new beginning" after choosing its new board. However,  a new beginning is not possible without cutting ties with Turkey, some German politicians marked. 

Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) spokesman Christoph de Vries said DITIB is still Germany branch of Turkey's top religious body Diyanet and Turkey controls everything from staff to the financial status, according to DW. 

"An Islamic institution which only loyal to Ankara cannot be part of Germany," Vries said.

DITIB was founded in 1984 as a branch of the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Turkey and today is a shelter organisation of 896 associations in Germany.  The imams educated in Turkey and sent to Germany over the years have helped Ankara to influence the religious practices of Turkish migrants in the country. 

The Green Party ex-chair Cem Özdemir called DITIB to stick with the idea of "new beginning", otherwise DITIB would not place itself among other German schools or religious communities. 

The Green Party politician and DITIB critic Volker Beck called the Turkish influence on DITIB a "position from the madhouse". 

"A religious association determined and directed by a foreign state cannot be a religious community," Beck said. In his view, "a new beginning" meant a categorical cut with Ankara.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) state chairman Armin Laschet told Kölner Stadt Anzeiger newspaper that DITIB should be released of Ankara's influence. 

Last week, DITIB's new chair Kazım Türkmen explained what he understands by "a new beginning": concentration of the largest Islamic association in Germany on religious education and on recognition as a religious community and public corporation, according to Kölner Stadt Anzeiger newspaper.

According to Türkmen, however, a separation from the influence of Turkey's religious authority Diyanet cannot be done as Germany demands. 

"With such a large organisation as the DITIB, new structures are connected with great expenditure of time and do not have to happen by demands from outside, but have to follow inner dynamics," Türkmen said. 

DITIB made the headlines in 2017 when it was accused of spying on German citizens for Turkey, resulting in a temporary suspension of federal funding.