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Germany plans to end practice of importing imams from Turkey, abroad

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German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser has announced that she wants to significantly reduce the influence of foreign imams on Islamic communities in Germany and put emphasis on the training of homegrown imams, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper reported.

“I want to gradually reduce the government posting of imams from abroad to Germany, with the aim of ending them altogether,” Faeser said on Wednesday at the start of the German Islam Conference in Berlin. This applies in particular to Turkey, she said, adding that the federal government is in contact with the responsible Turkish authorities.

Faeser said she considers it important in terms of integration policy that more imams who have been raised in Germany and trained in the German language serve the Islamic community.

Due to the lack of Islamic theological schools in Germany, Muslim congregations have for years imported religious leaders. Yet many believe that imams trained in Islamic theology programs at German universities would be better able to serve the needs of a younger generation of Muslims growing up in the country.

The Turkish imams are sent to serve at more than 900 mosques across Germany run by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB), which operates under Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet.

DITIB was founded by the Diyanet in 1984 in Germany at a time when more fundamentalist Islamic movements that were banned in Turkey had become increasingly popular among the Turkish population in Germany.

DİTİB has been accused of acting as the long arm of the Turkish government following a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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.

In August 2018 the German Interior Ministry announced that the German government would no longer be funding projects run by DİTİB after the organization was involved in a series of scandals.

Most of the German government’s funding for DITIB involved support for counterextremism programs and aiding refugees. About €6 million ($6.9 million) had been provided to the group since 2012.

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