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Politicians call for action against Turkish extremists

Jane Mcintosh
October 2, 2018

The Turkish president's opening of Germany's largest mosque and use of hand gestures associated with extremists have led to German politicians' concerns about the role of the DITIB association.

The Grey Wolves sign by a demonstrator in Hamburg 2016
The Grey Wolves sign by a demonstrator in Hamburg 2016Image: Imago/L. Berg

Politicians in Germany expressed concern Monday about the use of Turkish ultra-nationalist symbols during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent state visit.

Erdogan supporters welcomed him with the Grey Wolves (Bozkurt) hand sign when he arrived in Cologne to open Germany's largest mosque run by DITIB, a Turkish-Germanic Islamic organization funded by Ankara.

North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Integration Minister Serap Güler told Deutschlandfunk that anyone who had seen the disturbing images of right-wing extremists in Chemnitz could not remain silent, even if the extremists were in a minority.

DITIB had not used the opening of the mosque to demonstrate integration, she added, insisting that the association had to decide if it wanted to operate as a political organization or occupy itself with the religious concerns of local Muslims.

Just as worrying, Güler said, was the four-fingered "Rabia" greeting of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Erdogan used upon arrival in Berlin.

The Grey Wolves is a Turkish ultranationalist group, and has been described as the armed wing of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) whose members have played a significant role in voting Erdogan into power in Turkey, especially since the failed 2016 coup.

The MHP took 11 percent of the poll in the last elections in Turkey and their members and supporters have gained jobs in the bureaucracy, police and army after the purges of suspected anti-Erdogan elements. Some Grey Wolves and other "ulkuculer" nationalists are accused of connections to criminal gangs and the underworld.

Erdogan waving to supporters in Berlin
Erdogan waving to supporters in BerlinImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Hirschberger

German political concerns

The Social Democratic Party (SPD)'s parliamentary spokesman for internal affairs, Burkhard Lischka, told the Welt newspaper on Monday there were "significant indications that DITIB was compliant in spying on Turkish dissidents in our country." He called for an investigation which could include surveillance of the association by German authorities.

Lischka's CDU counterpart, Mathias Middelberg, told the same newspaper that if DITIB was not a religious organization but the "political arm of an autocratic state president, spying on Erdogan's opponents and critics, it can hardly also be our partner."

Neither Cologne's Mayor Henriette Reker or NRW State Premier Armin Laschet were at the opening ceremony of the mosque on Saturday, which was attended by 1,100 people.

Dialogue or spying

Reker told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper "I want to tell the DITIB very clearly, that they must rebuild a stable connection to the city community," saying she hoped a new dialogue could be started.

Federal Integration Commissioner Annette Widmann-Mauz expressed similar sentiments as she expressed hopes the DITIB would change its course: "If religious associations want to become part of Germany, they must have their own structures in Germany and can not remain part of Turkey."

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