Erdogan continues to Islamize Germany

The Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği, or DİTİB), the German branch of Turkey's controversial religious affairs directorate known as Diyanet, will launch a new initiative next year. DİTİB, operating as the religious arm of Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist regime and financed by the Turkish government, will bring 75 graduates of Turkish faculties of theology or Islamic studies to Germany every year starting from January 2025 for training. These graduates will undergo a two-year training program at the DİTİB Academy in Dahlem, North Rhine-Westphalia, before being appointed as imams in DİTİB mosques in Germany. As part of this initiative, newly appointed imams must serve at DİTİB for at least ten years. Anyone who does not complete this decade of service will have to reimburse the expenses to the DİTİB. The Diyanet saw its budget approved in parliament in September 2023 increase significantly, from $1.2 billion in 2023 to an astonishing $3.18 billion. As of that date, the Diyanet boasted a powerful and extensive network controlling 89,327 mosques in Turkey and hundreds more abroad. The organization employs 141,149 staff, focusing primarily on imams who play a crucial role in religious services and community engagement. This impressive infrastructure highlights the significant presence of the Diyanet both nationally and internationally, further underlining its role as a key player in religious affairs.

To promote the new program in Germany where at least four million Turks live (many of them with German passports), Diyanet officials are organizing seminars in Turkish universities, informing students about the opportunities and obligations associated with this initiative. Applicants for the DİTİB program must be under 30 years old, be in good health and meet moral criteria to represent the Diyanet abroad. Those who fail in their studies will be removed from the DİTİB and will lose their right to reside in Germany. Furthermore, anyone who decides to settle in Germany through DİTİB will not be able to return to their country of origin after obtaining a residence permit. Imams who leave their position before the expected ten years will have to reimburse all training costs. DİTİB Academy launched its imam training program in January 2020 in Dahlem, aiming to respond to the religious, spiritual and social needs of the Muslim community in Germany with competent German-speaking clergy.

In addition to preaching, ministry and religious education, the program offers comprehensive training. As Nordic Monitor writes, 53 imams have graduated to date, of which 25 in 2022 and 28 in 2024. During a press conference on the 2025 program, the president of the DİTİB, Dr. Muharrem Kuzey, declared that there are currently around 1,200 in Germany Turkish priests, of whom 250 know the German language and are trained in the country. Kuzey said the expansion of imam training is seen as an important step for the sustainability of religious services. Kuzey stressed that the training of clergy according to need should be organized by the religious communities themselves, indirectly referring to German plans for the training of imams by the German government, saying that such measures would go against the right of religious communities to determine their own destiny. Eyüp Kalyon, general secretary of the DİTİB, said the goal of the program is to provide a lifelong perspective, bringing Islamic theology graduates from Turkey to Germany. The imam training program is based on a two-year curriculum: the first year is dedicated to intensive German language learning and orientation, while the second year focuses on skills in religious services.

It is a model that aims to train clergy who will serve permanently in Germany, rather than having imams from Turkey who stay for four or five years. DİTİB, closely linked to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been involved in several scandals in Germany. In 2017, the German Federal Prosecutor's Office investigated 19 DİTİB imams suspected of having provided private information on members of the Gülen movement in Ankara, on orders of the Turkish government. However, the case was not prosecuted as most of them left Germany. Germany has repeatedly expressed concern about imams linked to the Diyanet, whose salaries are paid by the Turkish government, citing integration problems, political involvement and lack of local language proficiency but nothing has been done to stop them. The Diyanet, established by the Turkish state to counter radicalism, transformed during the 23 years of Erdogan's government into an instrument for the propagation of political Islam, conveying the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, both in Turkey and internationally. Since 2016, the Erdogan government has purged around 3,000 Diyanet staff, replacing them with supporters of Erdogan's Islamist ideology. In addition to the DİTİB Academy, the Diyanet has launched a special project to train groups of imams born and raised in European countries, who hold citizenship there. These selected students are brought to Turkey to continue their religious studies in theological faculties with a scholarship program sponsored by the Diyanet, known as «Uluslararası İlahiyat Programı» (International Theology Program), welcoming hundreds of students.