Germany’s Imam Training Project Politically Motivated Intervention: NGO

Germany has just announced a start-up project to locally train Imams as part of its effort to cut ties between its Muslim population and Turkey to end Turkish influence at mosques in Germany. German Muslim community, however, expressed reservations for the project calling it a politically motivated intervention of the government in religious territory.

Osnabruck University in Germany announced the controversial project to train Imams for the mosques in Germany. Professor Bulent Ucar, a member of Theology Faculty in Osnabruck University, said the project will be run by a civil structure free of government influence. Ucar said the project initially aims to train 20-30 people in 2 years.

“We are looking at a project created by the political will,” said Murat Gumus, deputy secretary general of Islamic Community Milli Gorus of IGMG, second largest Turkish-German Muslim NGO in the country. Gumus reminded Lower Saxony’s Science Minister’s remarks back in June. Minister Thumler had said that Federal Interior Ministry and Osnabruck University would launch a program to train Imams.

Turkish government has been sending Imams for hundreds of mosques in Germany for decades. Germany has been complaining about the practice but has so far failed to address the issue. Berlin government has recently adapted a resolution which seeks German language proficiency for foreign Imams. The move was considered an attempt to stop Turkish Imams from working in Germany.

Nearly 2 thousand mosques in Germany are run by Turkish-German NGO’s like IGMG and DITIB. Turkish Muslims make up 3,5 million of Germany’s 5 million Muslim community.

IGMG has released a statement in which it said the Imam training project is politically motivated intervention in an area which is supposed to belong to civil initiatives. The statement also said German government aims to direct Islam to a certain direction by this program.

While IGMG criticized the project, country’s largest Muslim umbrella, DITIB, which oversees more than 900 mosques has yet to made any comments on the matter. An official in DITIB who asked not to be named said the German government crackdown on the institution left them with no room to criticize any government policy. The DITIB official said Germany wants to curb Turkish influence but impose its own terms on how Muslims should live their lives.

One organization that will take part in the new project will be the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), confirmed its chairman, Aiman Mazyek. ZMD represents an extremely small chunk of Muslim community in Germany. Also other marginal names and groups like Al Hambra and Seyran Ates are expected to support the project.

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