By Ahmed Lamlom
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will inaugurate a mosque in the southern German city of Cologne on Saturday amidst security threats against the backdrop of opposition groups of Turkish origin demonstrating in the city in protest against his visit to the country.
In his current visit to Germany, Erdogan is trying to ease tension between the two countries and get support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel amid a severe economic crisis plaguing his country and a chill in relations with the United States.
However, Erdogan faces a difficult situation with German politicians led by Merkel. Merkel and a number of politicians boycotted a dinner hosted by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Armin Lacht, head of the German government of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state in which Cologne is located, to participate in the opening ceremony of the mosque.
Lasht directed a barrage of criticism against the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DiTiB), which oversees the mosque, as well as about 900 additional mosques run by the association across the country, denouncing the strong ties with the Turkish government and devoting its energy to political action. The state’s local government froze its relations with the DiTiB earlier this year.
“The DiTiB should again focus on religious and pastoral work, without engaging in politics or observing the supporters of the movement of the preacher Fathallah Gulin (the political opponent of Erdogan),” he said in a statement to the Tageszeitung am Wochenende newspaper.
Preachers in the DiTiB mosques have prayed for the victory of Turkey after Turkish troops entered northern Syria in January and posted online videos of some of the DiTiB mosques in Germany showing children in military uniform.
The DiTiB is Germany’s largest mosque, with some 800,000 members nationwide. The association is linked to the Turkish government’s religious affairs office, which is directly affiliated with Erdogan, and the Turkish office assigns Turkish imams to the DiTiB mosques. Those imams receive a salary from the Turkish consulates throughout their stay. The Turkish religious office also puts the religious outlines of these mosques.