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Germany is debating official surveillance of DİTİB after Erdoğan visit

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Following a state visit to Germany by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week, German politicians are now discussing whether the country’s intelligence agency should monitor the activities of the largest Islamic umbrella group in Germany, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), Deutsche Welle reported.

During his two-day visit to Germany, which began on Friday, Erdoğan met with top German politicians as well as officiating at the inauguration of a mosque run by DİTİB in Cologne.

Cologne authorities refused to allow a major rally in the city on Saturday on the occasion of the opening of the Central Mosque by Erdoğan, citing security concerns.

Vice president of the Bundestag, Claudia Roth, a Green Party politician, in remarks to Saarbrücker Zeitung said it was out of the question to prohibit Erdoğan from inaugurating the DİTİB mosque in Cologne but added that the event shows how close DİTİB and the government in Ankara are.

The Cologne-based DİTİB runs more than 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, which provides imams to DİTİB mosques.

In the wake of a failed 2016 coup attempt against Erdoğan, DİTİB has been accused of acting as the long arm of the Turkish government.

Some imams are alleged to have acted on the orders of Turkish diplomatic posts to spy on followers of the Gülen movement, which Ankara blames for the failed coup.

Roth said she finds it right for the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) to address the issue of whether it should monitor the activities of DİTİB or not.

Armin Laschet, prime minister of the North Rhine-Westphalia and a deputy chairman of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, told German newspaper taz that DİTİB should give up engaging in politics and concentrate again on theology, spiritual support and counseling services.

In the meantime, Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia Herbert Reul warned German authorities to not act hastily on the surveillance of DİTİB.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, a Sunday newspaper in Germany, Reul said a decision has not yet been made whether DİTİB should be monitored by German domestic intelligence and if it is monitored, how it will be done. The minister said legal obstacles need to be overcome first in the event of possible surveillance of DİTİB.

It became public in August that the German government stopped providing funding to DİTİB due to a series of controversies the group has been involved in.

Since the start of the year, the federal government has not approved any funding for DİTİB. Funding has also been halted for projects in 2019.

Most of the German government’s funding for DİTİB has involved support for counter-extremism programs and aiding refugees.

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