Mosques Spying for Turkish Intelligence in Germany Prompt Raids, Government Probe
The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) in Germany is the official arm of the Diyanet, the Turkish government's Presidency of Religious Affairs, which operates 900 mosques and employs 970 imams and religious officials. DITIB represents 70 percent of Germany's Muslim community and serves the more than three million German nationals of Turkish origin or Turkish citizens who live in Germany.
But investigations into the DITIB in recent months have revealed that the Turkish government-controlled mosques have been used extensively as part of the spy network of the Turkish intelligence agency, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT).
Through a network of 6,000 informants in Germany, they have spied on the German-Turkish community and reported back to the MIT on activities seen as contrary to the increasingly dictatorial rule of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
In response, German authorities have conducted raids on the homes of DITIB imams and suspended any government funding to the organization.
The spying affair has also prompted German media to investigate claims that the DITIB mosques are preaching extremism and openly hindering integration.
These reports have so far culminated today in a report that German authorities are investigating one of the top DITIB authorities who called on Turkish diplomatic missions to increase spying on the followers of U.S.-based Turkish Islamist Fethullah Gulen.
According to Deutsche Welle, this includes two members of the German Parliament:
Erdogan and the Turkish government have accused Gulen and his followers of complicity in the attempted coup in Turkey this past July. More than 40,000 people have been arrested in a purge of accused Gulenists.
The aborted coup in Turkey and the response by Erdogan have caused problems beyond the Turkish state, particularly in Germany with its large German-Turkish community.
The coup also prompted the MIT to begin to harass perceived opponents in Germany, which prompted media investigations beginning just a few weeks later:
In December, a DITIB official outright denied that their mosques were spying in Germany in an interview with the German Catholic news agency KNA.
And yet not even a month later the DITIB admitted that, in fact, their mosques were conducting spying:
The DITIB claimed that the spying was the result of a "breakdown":
German authorities apparently were not convinced with the "breakdown" explanation and launched an investigation into the spying affair
So far that investigation has resulted in a series of raids targeting DITIB imams (who, again, are employed by the Turkish government).
And the German government stopped support for DITIB-sponsored social projects:
This week it was announced that there is an official probe into the spying by MIT, described by German authorities as "intolerable," through the DITIB mosques:
Remarkably, Turkish intelligence handed German authorities a list of 300 suspected Gulenists that they asked for help spying on:
The spying affair and the resultant government investigations and media exposure have also revealed that DITIB mosques have been hubs of extremism and imams openly calling for followers to not integrate into German society.
In the North Rhine-Westphalia district -- the federal region with the largest population in Germany -- Interior Ministry officials had to stop their involvement in a joint program with DITIB, "Project Signposts," intended to prevent extremism.
What they discovered is that in March 2016, the DITIB published a comic glorifying martyrdom:
And in December, DITIB published anti-Christmas propaganda and incitement against Christians:
One media investigation by a TV magazine program found that DITIB imams were encouraging anti-Semitism, preaching that "the cannibal Jew brings death to Palestine" and "to describe the barbarism of the Jews, you will not be able to find the right words."
Imams also directed their followers not to make friends with Christians, Jews, or atheists.
In February, the Panorama 3 program discovered Facebook posts by DITIB imams discouraging integration. An example: "Democracy is not for us. The Quran binds us."
Even more menacing, one DITIB imam addressed Erdogan, saying, "Sir, give us the order and we'll destroy Germany."
The German investigations into MIT spying through DITIB mosques and imams have several larger ramifications.
First, it's not just German authorities who are investigating spying from Diyanet mosques. Investigations in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland into the same spying problem are underway:
Second, Erdogan is leveraging Turkish communities in Europe in support of the constitutional referendum in Turkey later this month that if passed will increase his dictatorial powers.
As I reported here at PJ Media a few weeks ago, Turkish government officials instigated a diplomatic crisis with the Netherlands by drumming up support for Erdogan's referendum, prompting riots in Rotterdam:
Thirdly, Erdogan and other senior Turkish officials are making threatening statements with respect to Europe:
In particular, Erdogan has threatened to unleash more waves of refugees if Germany and the EU don't concede to his demands:
One of his chief demands is for more visas for Turkish citizens to relocate in Europe:
But there are clear signs even from Erdogan that more Turkish citizens means more trouble for Europe:
Fourth, Erdogan's hated rival, Fethullah Gulen, currently resides in the U.S. -- and Turkey has made demands to extradite the cleric:
To leverage against the U.S. for Gulen's extradition, many believe that Erdogan is holding American pastor Andrew Brunson as a negotiating chip. Secretary of State Tillerson met with Brunson's wife this week:
Fifth, amidst the allegations by multiple European governments that Diyanet mosques are being used by the MIT for spying and promoting extremism, the Diyanet last year opened a $100 million facility right outside Washington, D.C.
In my next article I'll look at the spying from Diyanet mosques and imams in other European countries and what that might mean for the U.S.