Germany to slash funding for Islamic organization DITIB

Berlin plans to cut project funding for the Turkish Islamic organization DITIB by about 80 percent, according to a newspaper report. DITIB has been criticized for having close ties to the Turkish government.

Despite concerns over the Turkish Islamic organization DITIB's relationship with Ankara, the German government will continue to provide the organization funds for projects, according to a newspaper report on Thursday.

DITIB, however, will be given significantly less money than in previous years, the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported, citing an Interior Ministry response to an inquiry from the Greens.

Berlin plans to give the Turkish-Islamic union €297,500 euros ($349,800) for projects in 2018 — about 20 percent of what DITIB received in 2017 and less than 10 percent of what it was given in 2016.

For 2017, the year following the failed military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, Berlin gave DITIB €1.47 million in funding.

The German government gave the organization much more money in 2016 — to the tune of €3.27 million — for projects to help refugees.

What is DITIB?

— DITIB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, is Germany's largest Islamic organization, with a network of around 900 mosques and 800,000 members.

— The organization is based out of the western city of Cologne and engages in religious, social and cultural activities in Germany.

— Imams with DITIB allegedly spied on community members in Germany who were suspected of being followers of Fetullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric accused by the Turkish government of being behind the country's failed coup last July.

— The organization claims to be independent of the Turkish government, but DITIB imams are trained in Ankara and classified as civil servants by the Turkish state.

Greens: Reconsider cooperation

The Greens' religious affairs spokesman, Volker Beck, told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that the federal government should reconsider its cooperation with organizations such as DITIB, the Central Council of Muslims and the Milli Görüs organization.

Related Subjects

Beck criticized some of the projects funded by the German government as "false investments" and said the amount of money given to the organizations was "astonishing."

The list of projects funded with money from the German government was also "incomplete," Beck told the paper, criticizing the German government's lack of knowledge about the workings of organizations such as DITIB.

"The state has to know who they are dealing with when it concerns project funding, pastoral counseling, Islam classes or even when recognizing [the organization] as a public corporation."


German mosques - German unity

The "Day of Open Mosques" has taken place since 1997 on the Day of German Unity – Germany's national holiday. The date was deliberately chosen to express Muslims' connection to the German people and how they consider themselves part of German Unity, the Central Council of Muslims explains. About 100,000 visitors are expected – here, some are seen standing in front of Berlin's Sehitlik Mosque.


Mosques for all

On this day, Muslim communities want to give visitors an understanding of Islam, so where better than an actual mosque? Far more than just places for prayer, mosques also serve as gathering points for creating community and social interaction. The word "mosque" derives from the Arabic word "majid," which means "place for prostration in prayer."


Rituals and rules

Part of getting to know Islam is becoming familiar with its rituals and rules. One initial ritual before entering the mosque involves removing one's shoes before entering the prayer room. There is a focus on cleanliness and purification: before each prayer, Muslims carry out a ritual ablution. Because worshipers touch the prayer rug with their foreheads, the carpets must always be clean too.


Architecture and history

Most mosques offer guided tours, as seen above with this mosque in Hürth near Cologne. Here, visitors can get a picture of Islamic architecture, history and day-to-day life in a mosque, and hence understand more about how Islamic communities in Germany gather and build community.


Sharing spirit

The Merkez mosque in Duisburg, opened in 2008, is the largest mosque in Germany. Integration work is one of the focal points for Duisburg's Muslim community. Besides guided tours through the mosque, visitors get the chance to attend noon and afternoon prayers. Afterwards, visitors are invited for a cup of tea.


Sharing salah

Experiencing an Islamic prayer is one point of the agenda for the October 3 event. But the actual area for prayers is off-limits for visitors. As can be seen in the Sehitlik mosque here, visitors listen to prayers from a grandstand. The word for prayer in Arabic is "salah" or "salat," which literally means "connection to God."


Misbaha and rosary

This boy was given a chain with prayer beads during the Day of Open Mosques at the Frankfurt. The faithful move the beads through their fingers to repeat prayers and chants, just as is done in Christendom and Buddhism. This chain, consisting of at least 33 beads, is called "tasbih" or "misbaha" in Islam. The beads prove to be useful when reciting Allah's 99 names.


Intercultural dialogue

Mosques in Germany open their doors for cultural understanding on other occasions, too. For instance, during the German Catholic Convention, Catholic nuns take part in guided tours, as seen here in the Yavuz Sultan Selim Mosque in Mannheim. Such occasions offer an opportunity for Catholicism and Islam to cultivate a close relationship.


Breaking down prejudices

Mosques in Dresden invite visitors to cultural exchange as well. The Al-Mostafa mosque has already published a schedule of events: there will be lectures held by the imam about Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and the Koran, as well as conversation hours to share refreshments, learn and discuss. In a city where the Islamophobic PEGIDA group made headlines, this offering is especially important.

rs/rt (dpa, epd, KNA)