So apparently Erdogan uses religion in creepy ways in other countries. This had not occurred to me as a thing.
I mean, I understood how he uses religion in creepy ways in his own country. where he’s set himself up as some kind of Nazi prophet or something. I just didn’t realize he used it to extend his creepy fascist tentacles to other countries through his international state sponsored religion.
But, once again, I guess it makes sense. Awful, horrible sense, but sense nonetheless.
So this is the entrance to the rabbit hole that came across my Twitter feed.
DIE LINKE asked the federal government about its support for religious associations such as DITIB for the war of aggression in northern Syria, which is carried out in violation of international law.
On the occasion of Turkey’s illegal war of aggression against Northern Syria, the Turkish religious authority Diyanet called for victory prayers for the Turkish troops in the country’s mosques. The authority, whose religious officials also act as imams in mosques of the Islamic associations DITIB, ATIB and Milli Görüş in the Federal Republic of Germany, sent a Friday sermon in which it literally said: “Help our heroic army, which has started a campaign for the security of our country”. In mosques of Turkish Islamic associations such as DITIB and Milli Görüş in Germany, prayers were also held for a victory for the Turkish army.
Jelpke: Visas for such religious officials should be withdrawn
Ulla Jelpke, the spokeswoman for domestic policy of the parliamentary group DIE LINKE, asked the federal government about these events. The federal government described the attempted influence of Diyanet imams in Germany to support Turkish military intervention in Syria as “unacceptable”. Jelpke demanded: “However, it should not remain only with admonitory words. If foreign religious officials use their professional position to support their government’s war of aggression in violation of international law, their work visas should be withdrawn immediately.”[/QUOTE]
Highly partisan Kurdish source, yes. But based on what we’ve seen, it definitely seems worth investigating. I mean—
Turkey has a “religious authority”?
As it happens: Yep.
In Turkey, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet) is an official state institution established in 1924 under article 136 of the Constitution of Turkey by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey as a successor to the Shaykh al-Islām after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate.
As specified by law, the duties of the Diyanet are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places”. The Diyanet drafts a weekly sermon delivered at the nation’s 85,000 mosques and more than 2,000 mosques abroad that function under the directorate. It provides Quranic education for children and trains and employs all of Turkey’s imams, who are technically considered civil servants. It has been criticized for ignoring the Islamic creed of the 33–40% of Turkey’s population that is not Hanafi Sunni Muslim.
Started from 2006 the Diyanet was “beefed up”, and by 2015 its budget had increased fourfold, and staff doubled to nearly 150,000. In 2012 Diyanet TV was activated, now broadcasting 24 hours a day. It has expanded Quranic education to early ages and boarding schools – “enabling the full immersion of young children in a religious lifestyle” – and now issues fatawa on demand.
Do we even want to know what a “Shaykh al-Islam” is in this case? Or can we just guess?
In the Ottoman empire, which controlled much of the Sunni Islamic world from the 14th to the 20th centuries, the Grand Mufti was given the title Sheikh ul-islam (Ottoman Turkish: Şeyḫülislām). The Ottomans had a strict hierarchy of ulama, with the Sheikh ul-Islam holding the highest rank. A Sheikh ul-Islam was chosen by a royal warrant amongst the qadis of important cities. The Sheikh ul-Islam had the power to confirm new sultans, but once the sultan was affirmed, it was the sultan who retained a higher authority than the Sheik ul-Islam. The Sheikh ul-Islam issued fatwas, which were written interpretations of the Quran that had authority over the community. The Sheikh ul-Islam represented the law of shariah and in the 16th century its importance rose which led to increased power. Sultan Murad appointed a Sufi, Yayha, as his Sheikh ul-Islam during this time which led to violent disapproval. The objection to this appointment made obvious the amount of power the Sheikh ul-Islam had, since people were afraid he would alter the traditions and norms they were living under by issuing new fatwas.
The office of Sheikh ul-islam was abolished in 1924, at the same time as the Ottoman Caliphate. After the National Assembly of Turkey was established in 1920, this office was in the Shar’iyya wa Awqaf Ministry until 1924, when the Ministry was abolished due to separation of religion from state, the office was replaced by the Presidency of Religious Affairs. As the successor entity to the office of the Sheikh al-Islam, the Presidency of Religious Affairs is the most authoritative entity in Turkey in relation to Sunni Islam.
OK, so, according to that article, what else are they talking about in Germany?
Grey Wolf Deputy Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims
She continues: “It comes as no surprise that Mehmet Alparslan Celebi, deputy chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, has also called for support for the Turkish war of aggression on Northern Syria. After all, his association ATIB, which is organised in the Central Council, is a direct offshoot of the fascist Grey Wolves. However, I find astonishing how Turkish nationalism and chauvinism are spread here under the cloak of religion – that should contradict the claim of Islam to unite nations.”
Grey Wolves? I don’t think I like where this is going.
First, let’s check out ATIB.
Not a great start. And then there’s this.
“The ATIB umbrella group is an instrument of hard, ruthless and, in my view, legally unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria,” Pilz told a news conference.
BERLIN — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria on Friday ordered the closing of seven mosques and the scrutiny of the right of dozens of Turkish imams to remain in the country, citing suspected violations of an Austrian law that bans “political Islam” or foreign financing of Muslim institutions.
“Political Islam” is a new term for me. But I don’t have an advanced understanding of European politics around religion, though I know a little and know it is very different from the United States. Constitution and stuff.
“Parallel societies, politicized Islam or radical tendencies have no place in our country,” Mr. Kurz said at a news conference announcing the measures in Vienna on Friday.
“Parallel societies” is an interesting sounding concept too.
Since taking office last year, Mr. Kurz’s government has begun investigating Muslim organizations suspected of violating the country’s 2015 Islam law. The law aims to prevent any conflict between “thinking of oneself as a pious Muslim and proud Austrian citizen at the same time,” by regulating operations of the Islamic community.
OK, so this speaks to the ancient debate about whether or not membership in an independent religion and membership in a polity are compatible or not. Or discerning when they are and are not compatible, as when ancient Rome didn’t ask others to renounce their gods, only just accept the gods of Rome as well.
Which is obviously unacceptable in many religions, and perhaps to most people who consider themselves faithful to a religion.
In America, at least as a political tradition, we try to focus on behavior, not what a person “is” when making things illegal. So this notion of legal concern with promoting a way of thinking sounds problematic to me.
To the extent that a religion would cause a person to behave in ways detrimental to the maintenance of the state, however, right or wrong, we always expect the state to crack down on that.
As in, like, as an extreme example, a state is not going to accept religion as a reason for treason. That’s an extreme example, yes, but it’s illustrative of how states are not accepting of things that would make citizens disloyal. That’s just how things work.
It’s intimately related to why some of us support separation of church and state. It’s a weird historical irony that many people think of the importance of the separation as saving the government from religious influence.
That function of separation of church and state has its place, but back in the day, people also supported separation to stave off the corrupting influence of political power on organized religion. Tocqueville, for example, held reservations as to whether or not the church could maintain its ability to promote social cohesion if it became political. And that was in the early mid-1800s.
And that gets into a huge philosophical debate about why and when adherence to a religion becomes incompatible with citizenship in a polity, one that is much larger than is going to be resolved here. But it’s definitely interesting and important stuff.
I guess it makes sense to look at this Grey Wolves thing then, huh?
The Grey Wolves (Turkish: Bozkurtlar), officially known as Ülkü Ocakları (Turkish: [ylcy odʒakɫaɾɯ]; “Idealist Clubs/Hearths”), are a Turkish far-right ultranationalist organization. They are commonly described as ultranationalist and/or neo-fascist. A youth organization with close links to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), it has been described as MHP’s paramilitary or militant wing. Its members deny its political nature and claim it to be a cultural and education foundation, as per its full official name: Ülkü Ocakları Eğitim ve Kültür Vakfı (Idealist Clubs Educational and Cultural Foundation).
Established by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş in the late 1960s, it rose to prominence during the late 1970s political violence in Turkey when its members engaged in urban guerrilla warfare with left-wing activists and militants. Scholars have described it as a death squad, responsible for most of the violence and killings in this period. Their most notorious attack, which killed over 100 Alevis, took place in Maraş in December 1978. They are also alleged to have been behind the Taksim Square massacre on May Day, 1977. The masterminds behind the Pope John Paul II assassination attempt in 1981 by Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca were not identified and the organization’s role remains unclear. Due to these attacks, the Grey Wolves have been described by some scholars, journalists, and governments as a terrorist organization. The organization has long been a prominent suspect in investigations into the Turkish “deep state“, and is suspected of having had close dealings in the past with the Counter-Guerrilla, the Turkish branch of the NATO Operation Gladio.
Might as well check out the third organization mentioned in that piece.
Millî Görüş (Turkish: [milˈliː ɟœˈɾyʃ], “National Outlook” or “National Vision”) is a religio-political movement and a series of Islamist parties inspired by Necmettin Erbakan. It has been called one of “the leading Turkish diaspora organizations in Europe” and also described as the largest Islamic organization operating in the West. Founded in 1969, the movement claimed to have “87,000 members across Europe, including 50,000 in Germany,” as of 2005. The term also refers to the “religious vision” of the organization that emphasizes the moral and spiritual strength of Islamic faith (Iman) and explains the Muslim world‘s decline as a result of its imitation of Western values (such as secularism) and inappropriate use of Western technology. The Movement is active in nearly all European countries and also countries like Australia, Canada and the United States.
Not so bad, I guess?
According to several sources in Germany the attitude of the German branch towards Turkey has completely changed. After the taking over of Erdogan and the AKP the organisation is mainly serving the interest of the turkish government which now subsidizes the organisation. Diyanet, AKP and the turkish government practically control the organisations public statements and appearances. 
In 2018, in Germany and Austria, several performances of plays organised by DITIB – which is suspected of carrying out spying activities for the Turkish government – were made public. Uniformed child soldiers handled toy weapons in the plays, shouted military commands and salute before dying for their fatherland, covered with the Turkish flag. At the same time, the Turkish army, supported by jihadist allies, invaded the northern Syrian canton of Afrin. Thousands of people died, countless were injured and had to leave their homes.
This is fine.
The Ditib Association also controls numerous Islamic preachers in Germany. Some of its members are railing around Christmas
Hamburg. The upheavals in Turkey reach Germany. Like the Erdogan government related groups, members of the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB) in Germany have recently made massive mood against the Christian Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. The association itself distances itself.
Ditib maintains mosques and is for example in Hamburg partner of the city in the contract with the Muslim associations and thus also has influence on the teaching design in the schools. On social networks, drawings have also been spread by Ditib organizations, where one sees a suspected Muslim man collide a Santa Claus. As the news agency dpa reports, the pictures are also from Facebook pages of Ditib associations from North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.
They hate Christmas.
I mean, I guess it says the organization doesn’t have an official position on hating Christmas. Just the members hate Christmas?
What the hell is going on here?
I’d run down Milli Görüş a bit but it means “national vision,” appears a lot and is difficult for me to translate and differentiate things, and the first article I managed to decipher was about the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs basically telling NATO to go fuck itself or they’ll shut down the Malatya Kürecik Radar Base if the US proceeds with sanctions. So I think I’m done.
Meanwhile, Turkey wants more religious protection from the German state.
OK, this article is difficult for me to parse because church and state stuff is totally different in Germany than in the United States. But I know that established church stuff is very different there too.
“Established” churches that receive sponsorship from the state it’s in is something I understand. As an American, I think it’s not a great idea, but I get it.
A Church of Erdogan that receives funding and directives from Turkey doesn’t strike me as a terribly attractive idea.