Major German-Turkish Muslim group opts out of massive Cologne demo against terrorism

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A massive anti-terrorist march organized by Muslim activists is to take place in the German city of Cologne. However, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), one of the largest Muslim associations in Germany, has refused to take part.

The march, which will be held under the slogan “Not with us,” is scheduled for Saturday, June 17. It was organized by a group of prominent German Muslim public figures, including Lamya Kaddor, an Islamic scholar and author, and Tarek Mohamad, a Muslim peace activist.

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“The attacks by people who justify their acts by invoking Islam, without justification, are becoming more frequent,” the organizers said on the rally’s official website, as they called on Muslims and non-Muslims to join the march to condemn the terrorists and their violence.

“Our faith is being abused, defiled, insulted, and distorted into something unrecognizable by this,” the organizers also said, adding that it is “our duty to stand against terrorists.”

Some 10,000 are expected to take part in the demonstration, according to the organizers. Some major German Muslim associations have already expressed their support to the march’s organizers, including the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD) and the German Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

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“We must take to the streets, make a point and [show] that we fight for the unity of our society and condemn extremism,” Aiman Mazyek, the head of the ZMD, told the German Rheinische Post daily, adding that his organization would participate in the Cologne march to “openly stand against” the terrorists.

However, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), which is considered to be one of the largest Islamic organizations in Germany, comprising more than 900 Muslim communities across the country, instead rejected the event and criticized its organizers by accusing them of “hijacking and exploiting” the anti-terrorist agenda during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“Calls for ‘Muslim’ anti-terror demos fall short [of the goal], stigmatize Muslims, and confine international terrorism to being just among them, and within their communities and mosques,” Ditib wrote in its statement, adding that it is a “false way and a false signal.”

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“This initiative was either not well thought through or initially aimed primarily at a media and political effect rather than… at [expressing] the will of the Muslims,” the statement says. It also added that all people bear common responsibly for fighting terrorism and it is not only the Muslims, who “should sort it out among themselves.” 

DITIB also drew attention to the fact that it would be just “unreasonable” and almost “impossible” for the fasting Muslims to rally and march through the city in the middle of a hot day with 25 degrees Celsius expected. Instead, the group said it will collect signatures under a joint petition against terrorism and for peace during the Friday prayer.

Another major Cologne-based umbrella group, the Islamic Council (Islamrat), which includes the second-largest German Islamic organization, Millî Görüş, among its 37 member groups, has also refused to participate in the rally, various German media have reported.

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DITIB’s and Islamrat’s decision quickly provoked a wave of criticism.

DITIB has “missed a great chance and played right into the hands of the enemies of Islam,” peace activist Kaddor wrote in her Twitter post.

Meanwhile, Stephan Mayer, the spokesman for Home Affairs of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, told Frankfurter Rundschau he considers the move to be “regrettable and very counterproductive.”

The two prominent groups “miss an important opportunity to show solidarity with other associations and the German society at a time when this is rightly expected by the society,” Mayer said, adding that he believes it is “not a sign of social responsibility.”

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Mayer’s counterpart at the SPD party, Burkhard Lischka, also criticized the decision, calling DITIB’s concern for the fasting Muslims marching under the sun a “petty” excuse. He cited weather forecast as saying cloudy skies were expected, adding that combined with the warm day it makes for the “best weather for demonstrations.”

Volker Beck, of the Green Party, issued a scathing statement on DITIB, saying that “those who want to represent millions of Muslims in Germany must also assume social responsibility.” DITIB’s statement criticizing the march “strikes it off the civil society” and shows that the group is “becoming more and more a problem for the Islamic community,” Beck argued.

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