Yılmaz Kılıç,head of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB),the largest Islamic umbrella group in Germany as well as in the Lower Saxony and Bremen states, has resigned from his post, citing interference from Turkey, German media outlets reported on Monday.
Kılıç explained in an article in the regional Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper that he had to defend himself again and again against the interference of DİTİB headquarters in Cologne and the Turkish Embassy’s religious attaché.
“As the Lower Saxony regional association, we always wanted to go our own way, but unfortunately we do not get support from Cologne,” said Kılıç “I see no way to fight here,” he also said on the NDR “Hello Niedersachsen” broadcast.
Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil from the SPD said in an interview with the newspaper that he regretted Kılıç’s resignation and described it as a “real setback for the efforts so far,” adding, “Mr. Kılıç was a close, serious discussion partner for us, and I have great respect for his commitment.”
DİTİB is the largest Islamic association in the German Federal Republic. It claims to represent more than 960 formally independent member clubs whose religious, social and cultural activities it wants to coordinate.
DİTİB is also the largest Islamic association in Lower Saxony and Bremen, where it represents about 160,000 Muslims from 85 groups.
Critics have long accused the association of serving as an extension of the Turkish government and hampering the integration of Turks in Germany through a nationalist orientation. In addition, DİTİB propagates an ultra-conservative understanding of Islam and supports Turkey’s military action against Kurds in northern Syria.
Individual DİTİB communities are also accused of anti-constitutional and nationalist-religious activities. DİTİB imams are accused of spying on Turkish regime opponents in German mosques.