When it comes to sponsors of radical Islamic extremism, most focus on Iran, the biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world. While Tehran is certainly deserving of the attention, it is important to understand the role that Turkey plays in the spread of radical propaganda.
Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power, the nation has moved away from the secularist governance of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk – who founded the modern state of Turkey and led the country out of Islamic theocracy – and embraced the Islamic supremacist roots of the Ottoman Empire. With this shift in Turkey’s political and religious atmosphere, Ankara has worked to spread radical Islam throughout the Western world, most notably, in Europe.
Turkey Engages In Mosque Diplomacy
Since 2002, Erdogan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the construction of mosques in other countries. It is part of a campaign to promote Islam around the globe. In September, the Turkish leader inaugurated the latest mosque in Europe which is called “The Cologne Central Mosque,” in Germany.
Nevzat Yasar Asikoglu, the chairman of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) celebrated the completion of the new worship center. “Our mosque also symbolizes peace, brotherhood as well as the culture of co-existence,” he said.
With a Muslim population of nearly 4.7 million, Germany has the second largest number of immigrants from predominantly Islamic nations. Three million of these are from Turkey. DITIB currently oversees 900 mosques in Germany, and each of these are connected to Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs which provides imams for these mosques.
German intelligence is considering putting DITIB under surveillance due to a number of scandals in which the organization has been involved. These include imams spying for the Turkish government and holding a military re-enactment which included Turkish flags and fake guns being given to child martyrs.
While the European Union’s (EU) fixation on political correctness has allowed a massive influx of immigrants from Muslim nations into its countries, there are those who are resisting. Christopher de Vries, a member of Germany’s parliament, told reporters: “Those who spread nationalism, hatred of Christians, Jews or people of no religious affiliation and spy here at the behest of the Turkish government cannot be a partner in the fight against religious extremism in Germany.”
What Is The Purpose Of The Mosques?
Erdogan has repeatedly stated that he wishes to see a resurgence of the Ottoman empire. Earlier this year, the Turkish leader announced: “Those who think that we have erased from our hearts the lands from which we withdrew in tears a hundred years ago are wrong.” He has also predicted that the mass immigration of Muslims into European nations will result in the Islamization of these countries, which were previously under the control of the Ottomans.
By building mosques in Western nations, the Turkish leader seeks to spread Islamic ideology to Europe and the United States. The disturbing aspect of Turkey’s actions is the fact that many — if not most — of these religious centers brazenly promote radical Islamism and, in some cases, spy on the governments of the nations in which they are installed.
Last year, American critics claimed that the Diyanet Center of America (DCA), a Turkey-funded mosque close to Washington, D.C. was more than just a religious center. David L. Phillips, Director for the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, told Fox News, “They are centers for political mobilization functioning like madrasas, distorting Islamic and radicalizing youth.”
Fox News also reported that some believe the DCA “spreads Erdogan’s brand of Islam, spies and gathers information for his national intelligence service, and tracks Turkish-Americans who they suspect of following Fetullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric and one-time ally the president has named public enemy number one in Turkey.”
Members of France’s government have also grown suspicious of foreign-funded mosques, and they have considered placing a temporary ban on foreign financing of French mosques. They have also suggested that it may be necessary to ensure that imams should be trained in France, and not in foreign nations. France’s government has also taken further action against the spread of radical Islamic theology.
In 2016, the French government shut down 20 mosques, stating that their imams were preaching a radical version of Islam. More disturbing is the fact that after raiding 200 mosques, they found 324 weapons along with boxes of ISIS propaganda. Throughout the course of the raids, they arrested 230 Muslims who were suspected of planning terrorist activity.
Austria has experienced similar issues with Turkish-funded mosques. Recently, they shut down several Islamic religious centers and are currently investigating 60 imams for spreading radical Islamic ideology.
The Danger Of Turkey’s Subtle Islamization
While terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and ISIS use more overt means to spread radical Islam, Turkey is taking a subtler approach. Instead of funding suicide bombers and terrorist operatives, they are building mosques through which extremist propaganda can be distributed. In this way, they can support the growth of Islam in Europe by radicalizing their citizens. Moreover, these institutions provide aid and comfort to potential jihadis who desire to carry out more terrorist attacks.
Many European citizens have realized the problem and are pushing back against the rising influence of radical Islam in their countries. But the policies of the EU are making it more difficult for these countries to implement legislation designed to curb the flow of refugees and immigrants from Islamic nations. Moreover, the prevalence of political correctness has prevented people from speaking out against the growing threat of Islamic extremism. Can this trend be reversed? It isn’t clear, but it is apparent that Europe must act now to prevent this destructive theology from destroying their countries.