Friday, July 2, 2010

German Turkish Imams and the Sudden Rise of Turkey

Turkish imams will help determine what the next generations of Turkish Muslims living in Germany believe - and to what extent they will integrate or assimilate.

And both the German and Turkish government are trying to influence what the imams are saying:

Ever since Turkey woke up to the fact that millions of its citizens were living in Germany and weren't coming home anytime soon, imams have been flown in for purposes as political as they are religious. DITIB was created by Turkish authorities in the early 1980s to check the wayward drift and cultural emancipation of West Germany's Turkish diaspora as well as the evolution of religious practices away from Turkish traditions. The imams are Prussian (perhaps "Ottoman" might be more apt) in that they harbor deeply conservative mores, an authoritarian disposition, and unswerving allegiance to the fatherland -- all of which they pass on to their believers in sermons, parish work, and religion classes. 
The Turkish imams' wages are paid by the government in Ankara, which regularly vilifies integration as a betrayal of Turkdom. Turks abroad should stay Turkish, whatever their citizenship, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proclaimed. On visits to Germany, Erdogan has even called assimilation a "crime against humanity" and urged the creation of all-Turkish high schools in Germany. Ankara, which recently created a cabinet-level Office for Turks Abroad, even urges diaspora Turks to act in Turkish interests, as a kind of pro bono foreign service.
Between this, demanding reparations from Israel for the death of Turkish citizens in the recent flotilla raid, and involvement with the Iranian nuclear talks, it appears the Erdogan administration is making its presence known. In fact, Turkey appears to be launching itself as a global player in world events:
"International conjuncture changes. Turkey can not remain indifferent against the new influence areas like climate change, international migration and global economic crises," Davutoglu said while speaking at the Parliament during the discussions on a bill regarding Turkish Foreign Ministry's foundation and assignments.

Davutoglu said, "our efforts will be underway to increase role of Turkey in G20 and intensify works to change G20 from being a structure only making economic decisions."

"Turkey will not be a country speaking only on security. Turkey will be the spokesperson of human rights. Turkey will be the spokesperson of international conscience," Davutoglu said, adding that, "We will establish a Directorate General to prevent clashes and crisis management. We are not after being a mediator but every matter occurring in surrounding countries interests us," he said. 
And given their geographic position (and potential future rail-line connecting Europe to Pakistan), perhaps Turkey's rise in influence is inevitable. How this changes the dynamics of regional and global politics remains to be seen.

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