the government demands explanations from Ditib, Turkey's agent of influence

the government demands explanations from Ditib, Turkey’s agent of influence

The controversy is growing in Germany after a conference given by an official of the Afghan Taliban regime in a mosque in Cologne. This belongs to the Turkish Muslim association Ditib, the largest in the country.

The German government requested Monday, November 20, “explanations” to those responsible for Ditib (Turkish-Islamic Union of Religious Affairs), a federation of mosques directly attached to Diyanet, the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Turkey. The Diyanet is the administration responsible for organizing and financing Islam created in 1924 by Atatürk, six months after the abolition of the Caliphate following the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

“The Diyanet continues an Ottoman tradition, that of the control of the majority religion, Sunni Islam, by political power”explains Jean Marcou, professor at Sciences Po Grenoble and associate researcher at the French Institute of Anatolian Studies in Istanbul. “It is a religious bureaucracy responsible for appointing imams and muftis. It participates in the establishment of a national Turkish Islam. »

The institution administers Turkey’s approximately 85,000 mosques as well as at least 2,000 places of worship that welcome Turkish communities abroad. It offers Koranic education and sends imams at the expense of the Turkish state.


The Diyanet evolves at the rate of changes in Turkey, and in particular the rise of political Islam. Coming to power in 2002, Recep Tayyip Erdogan promotes “Turkish Islam”, a way of organizing Islam in line with the Hanafi school (one of the four legal schools of Sunnism), and relies on the Diyanet to implement its ambitions.

“We observe two parallel movements. On the one hand, the Diyanet is Ottomanized, that is to say it passes from a religious administration to a spiritual, normative organization which issues fatwas to say what (Turkish) Muslims can or cannot TO DO. On the other hand, the Diyanet is becoming politicized through contact with the AKP, the ruling party. indicates Jean Marcou.

The organization is gaining importance. Thus, between 2002 and 2016, its budget multiplied by 11 and reached 6.5 billion Turkish liras (1.9 billion euros).

This mutation of the Diyanet has repercussions in Europe, where it was established in the early 1980s as Turkish communities settled. Thus, there are more than 900 mosques in Germany and 270 mosques in France administered by its local branches, the Ditib, which recruit and pay imams, Turkish civil servants. Diyanet is also present in Austria, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The financing of Ditib’s networks is ensured, in addition to funds from the Turkish government, by donations from the faithful, the management of pilgrimage organization companies or social and cultural activities.

Link with Turkish communities abroad

Diyanet wants to defend Turkey’s interests abroad, control the Turkish diaspora by monitoring dissident elements. So the imams read sermons written by the Turkish authorities every Friday during prayer.

A true instrument of soft powerthe institution’s communication was strengthened from the 2010s. The Diyanet TV channel was launched in 2012 and was also established on social networks.

Erdogan “uses Diyanet to establish a permanent link between Ankara and the Turkish diaspora”, says Jean Marcou. A highly political issue since since 2014 the law has allowed Turks abroad to vote for the election of the President of the Republic.

Thus, in 2015, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the Turks of France during a meeting at the Zénith in Strasbourg, the Diyanet logo was present in the background. In 2023, Turkish voters in France voted in a location provided by Ditib (and not in a consulate), which caused controversy in France because this process has been deemed illegal since the separatism law of August 2021.

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