It is one of the largest Turkish religious communities in Europe and is continually enhanced, verbally and financially, by its spiritual mentor, the Turkish President Erdogan: Milli Görüs. In Germany it calls itself the “Islamic Community Milli Görüs” (IGMG). Now a study by the Vienna “Documentation Center for Political Islam” has been published that sheds new light on this movement.
Even if some tendencies within the community briefly gave hope that Milli Görüs would no longer support Islamist tendencies, the study from Vienna now assumes that radical positions were never given up or even critically reflected on. There were occasional developments among some officials and theologians who distanced themselves from Islamist positions such as the need for an Islamic state. However, this reorientation was primarily carried out within a circle of managers who came from a younger generation and were intellectually oriented. After Kemal Ergün was appointed President of the IGMG in 2011, these circles were marginalized and “no longer play a role in today’s IGMG”.
Ever since General Secretary Bekir Altaş was voted out last year, it became clear that Milli Görüs was not interested in reforming its Islamist theology. Altaş described the Palestinian Hamas as a “terrorist organization” at an event in Vienna. This was probably too much for the clerics of radical Islam within the community.
Especially after the Hamas bloodbath in Israel, the pressure from European politicians on the Milli Görüs was increased again: German Federal Minister Cem Özdemir, himself with family roots in Turkey, had accused the IGMG of “relativizing” after the Hamas attack on Israel, having found words along the lines of “it’s your own fault.” After the mass murder in Israel and the kidnapping of hundreds of Israeli civilians by Hamas, including babies and the elderly, the head of the organization only spoke of a “large-scale operation” and a “spiral of violence”.
The study by the “Documentation Center for Political Islam” continues to focus on the ideological roots of Milli Görüs, defined by the movement’s founder, the Turkish politician and former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who died in 2011. His theories of political Islam are still the undisputed political guiding principles of the radical group. According to the study, these are “permeated by anti-Semitic conspiracy thinking”. He senses “mysterious powers that dominate the world through an exploitative economic system and various international institutions.” Erbakan’s writings say, for example, that the EU is “a construct of the Zionists” and “a means of securing the world domination of the Jews.” Since 2011 at the latest, worship of Erbakan has visibly increased again. In recent years, commemorations in honor of Erbakan and other Islamist thinkers have been planned centrally in Cologne and promoted worldwide. Erbakan’s uncommented writings can be obtained from the IGMG bookstore.
The organization in Germany is analyzed as more important and more powerful than its Turkish mother. A global network of mosques and associations is controlled from the headquarters in Cologne, which today even has branches in Turkey and is no longer an offshoot of a Turkish organization. The IGMG is also said to work closely with the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. This strives for an Islamic theocracy based on Sharia law. The Muslim Brotherhood has several thousand members in Germany alone. In Germany it is under surveillance by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood uses various other “Islamic centers” for their activities. At public appearances, confessions to the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-constitutional statements are generally avoided. The IGMG is represented in the “European Council for Fatwa and Research” (ECFR), and its student organization belongs to the “Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations” (FEMYSO). All of these organizations show an affinity and structural proximity to the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the official view of the German security organs. There are also contacts with the Turkish right-wing extremist “Ülkücü movement”, better known as the Gray Wolves.
Children, youth and educational work play an important role within the IGMG – the next generation should also be educated in the spirit of their own ideology. There are weekend seminars, summer camps, Quran classes, after-school clubs, sports and art competitions, and even a special club for toddlers. The aim is to convey an “independent Islamic identity,” according to the researchers in Vienna. In principle, lessons take place in groups separated into girls and boys. There were ambitions to indoctrinate young people and get them to “resist the educational mandate of the state if this is not compatible with Islamic ideas or the interpretation by the IGMG”.
Even independently of the youth sector, the organization strives to create separate spheres in small steps that enable a “purely Islamic” way of life. The study concludes: “Their activities therefore also aim to transform the society around them in the long term. In the long term, society should be made receptive to Islamist norms and should not only accept gender segregation, alcohol bans and dietary restrictions (so far mainly in schools and canteens) but also practice them.”
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