German media has reported on the controversy surrounding the German government decision to ban the Council of Islam (Islamrat) from the German-Islam Conference on the grounds that the Council, dominated by the Turkish-based Milli Gorus movement, is under investigation for money laundering. According to the report:
The hopes of the German-Islam Conference were high when it was founded four years ago. But the Interior Ministry’s exclusion of one German Muslim group has put the attendance of three of the group’s partners in doubt. Germany’s four largest Muslim associations debated a potential boycott of the German-Islam Conference in Cologne on Friday after the Interior Ministry excluded one of the groups from attendance. The four groups were unable to reach a collective decision after nearly eight hours of discussion…..The four groups were the Council of Islam; the Central Council of Muslims; Ditib, which constructs mosques for the Turkish Religious Affairs Ministry; and the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers. The groups represent only five of the 30 members of the German-Islam Conference, with the remaining seats reserved for individual Muslims of various backgrounds and federal, state and local community representatives. The meeting of the four groups came after German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere excluded the Council of Islam from the conference. The group is dominated by the fundamentalist Turkish-based Milli Gorus movement, which has been the subject of a federal criminal investigation. The Interior Ministry claimed the investigation, which involves money laundering and fraudulent misuse of donations, would overshadow the goals of the conference. De Maiziere told German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung the removal of the Council of Islam had “nothing to do with the other organizations,” and that the rest were still “very welcome.” The German government founded the German-Islam Conference in 2006 to provide an official platform to discuss Muslim integration in the country. Specific topics have included poverty, unemployment and the poor academic performance of Muslim children. But critics, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have questioned the conference’s effectiveness. The months-long proceedings of the conference have suffered from sharp disagreements, including among Muslim participants, and results have been vague. Only 20 percent of Germany’s four million Muslims are actually represented by the four groups that participate, while the vast majority remains unaffiliated with any group. Some Muslim participants have also complained of the conference’s agenda, which has not focused on racism and Islamophobia. De Maiziere told Sueddeutsche Zeitung that these subjects “can certainly find a place.” This year’s conference is scheduled for May 17.
In Germany the Milli Gorus organization is closely tied to the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland (IGD), considered by the German government to be the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany. Until recently, the IGD was led by Ibrahim El-Zayat who is married to the sister of Mehmet Sabri Erbakan who is in turn the nephew of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of Turkish Milli Görüs. Mr. El-Zayat is highly active in managing Milli Gorus properties in Germany and in Holland where a mosque project he was involved with has become embroiled in controversy. Mr. El-Zayat is also a leader in many other European Muslim Brotherhood organizations including the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), the umbrella group for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.
As discussed in an earlier post, the IGD recently elected a new President to replace El-Zayat, likely as a result of an on-going German law enforcement investigation. In this investigation, Mr. El-Zayat is one of a group of individuals tied to the IGD suspected of forming a criminal association and intending to commit a crime by obtaining funds for its “politico-religious and ultimately Islamist goals”, probably in support of Hamas. One of the other defendants in the case is Oguz ÜCÜNCÜ, the General-Secretary of Milli Gorus in Germany and a business partner of Mr. El-Zayat. It is not known if it is this investigation that is referred to in the above report or other known investigations of Milli Gorus leaders in Germany.