Gulen versus Erdogan battle spills over into Germany
Germany's Turkish population is split after the coup attempt. No love is lost between followers of Fethullah Gulen and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Leaders of associations connected to the two men are playing down the issue.
One can sense Ercan Karakoyu's agitation, his voice trembles as he speaks. There is a "massive" struggle against members of the Gulen movement here in Germany: "The situation is scary. Gulen movement facilities are being pelted with rocks, sprayed with graffiti and members have even been receiving death threats." Veritable witch hunts are underway on social media networks and text messaging platforms.
Karakoyu is the director of the Foundation for Dialog and Education. Since 2014, the foundation has served as the mouthpiece for the "Hizmet Movement" in Germany (Hizmet means "the Service" in English) - or as it is often called, the Gulen movement. It is made up of followers of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, once a close companion of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and now considered to be his archenemy.
One of the groups that Karakoyu accuses of being responsible for the agitation is the Union of European Turkish Democrats (UETD). He says it is a kind of an AKP (Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party) lobbying group, acting as the long arm of President Erdogan in Germany.
"Other mosque associations, such as DiTiB, have also hung signs saying that Gulen supporters have no place in their communities." He mentions three specific instances: in Hagen, Duisburg and Günzburg.
With some 700 mosques under its aegis, DiTiB, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, is the largest mosque association in Germany. When asked about Karakoyu's accusations, representatives seem surprised.
The press spokesperson for DiTiB, Ayse Aydin, categorically denies them: "We are a Muslim religious community, and we never turn away anyone who wants to pray in a mosque." As a rule, all DiTiB mosques are open to anyone that wants to pray.
Escalating after the putsch
DiTiB is closely associated with state religious authorities in Turkey. The conflict between it and the Foundation for Dialog and Education, is thus also a conflict between supporters of Erdogan and Gulen. The quarrel puts a spotlight on the mood of the Turkish community in Germany, which has shown deep divisions in the days following the failed putsch in Turkey.
Dr. Christoph Ramm is an expert on Turkey at the University of Bern, in Switzerland. He is not in the least surprised that things are turbulent at the moment: "The Turkish government calls the Gulen movement a terrorist organization. They have made a massive attempt to remove all Gulen supporters from the justice system, the police force and the military." Media outlets that are loyal to Gulen, such as "Zaman", the most widely circulated newspaper in Turkey, have also been affected by these "purges."
The preacher's shadowy goals
Influential media reporting is one of the fundamental pillars of the Gulen movement. Officially, it Gulen versus Erdogan battle spills over into Germany | World | DW.COM | 20.07.2016: