Germany to halt admission of Turkey imams, train clerics domestically

Germany to halt admission of Turkey imams, train clerics domestically
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Germany to halt admission of Turkey imams, train clerics domestically

To promote integration, Germany plans to train its Muslim clerics and is scheduled to phase out a training program that places Turkish imams in the country’s mosques. The decision was pronounced by the Interior Ministry on 14th December. A deal for the gradual dismissal of foreign imams has been reached with the Turkish-Islamic umbrella organization DITIB. The goal is to replace the existing imams in Germany by training 100 each year. The approximately thousand clerics who were trained and hired by the Turkish Diyanet will progressively be replaced by them.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser stated in a statement, “We need religious leaders who speak our language, know our country and stand up for our values. We want imams to get involved in the dialogue between religions and discuss questions of faith in our society. This is an important milestone for the integration and participation of Muslim communities.”

The German Islam Conference (DIK) estimates that 5.5 million Muslims or around 6.6% of the country’s total population consider Germany their home. About 2,500 mosque communities exist in Germany and DITIB is in charge of 900 of them. The largest Islamic group in Germany, DITIB is a branch of the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Ankara, although it has been charged with serving as an extension of the Turkish government.

The most recent DITIB scandal arose last month when an Afghan Taliban member gave a speech at one of the group’s mosques in the western city of Cologne. Following claims that imams sent by Diyanet had spied on behalf of Ankara in the wake of the attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime, German officials called on DITIB to implement major reforms in 2017. Diyanet refuted any involvement and no charges were filed after the investigation was concluded.

In her 2018 speech to the parliament, former chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the training of imams on German territory “will make us more independent and is necessary for the future.” According to the ministry, the 100 imams who will be trained annually in Germany will be trained both through an additional program and as part of the current DITIB program. It claimed to be pursuing “cooperation with the German College of Islam” in Osnabrück to achieve this.

Osnabrueck, in northern Germany, is host to the Islamic College Germany, also known as Islamkolleg Deutschland. It was established in 2019 by Muslim community associations, scholars and theologians to give imams and religious personnel who speak German-speaking communities theological and practical training. The German government reportedly wishes to support courses that teach religious education and the German language to aspiring imams. Other courses that will be promoted include history, political science and German values.

More than 60 years ago, Turkish immigrants began to arrive in substantial numbers as West Germany began hiring “guest workers” from Turkey and other countries to support the nation’s economic development. The majority of the young males worked in the car sector, steel industry and coal mining. Large immigrant populations could be seen in Berlin and other western and southern German cities because many of the people who had originally arrived as temporary labourers chose to stay and bring their families.

The new imam training agreement was reached over prolonged negotiations with the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs or Diyanet, and the union of Turkish-Islamic cultural organizations in Germany also known as DITIB in Turkish.

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