Left-wing activists protest against construction of new mosque in Wuppertal

A gentrification project in the German city could see the controversial Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) operating a new mosque and local community centers, a move left-wing protesters believe will give the Turkish government-linked organization too much influence

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Thomas Brooke
The existing DITIB mosque in the Elberfeld district of Wuppertal.

Left-wing activists held a demonstration on Wednesday against the local government’s plans to construct a new mosque in the German city of Wuppertal.

A group of around 50 supporters from the far-left Autonomous Center opposed the plans in a protest outside a closed-door meeting of the Elberfeld District Council.

The proposal would see the demolition of a municipal building which has been occupied by the Autonomous Center for almost three decades, in order to build a €30 million mosque in a run-down area of the western German city.

In addition to the Islamic prayer center, the city administration wants to build a daycare center for children, a senior citizens’ center and a student accommodation. The council project is in collaboration with the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), a controversial Islamist organization with links to the Turkish government, and protesters believe the move would see DITIB gain too much influence in the local community.

DITIB funds over 900 mosques across Germany and is understood to have been in discussions regarding managing the new mosque and the additional community centers.

Those involved in the left-wing activist group believe the mosque will not only be a place of prayer, but also a place for fascist propaganda and Turkish nationalist indoctrination. They claim the Islamic association is attempting to make “territorial claims” and warn against the “DITIB-ization” of the local area.

One activist known as Tim told the left-wing German newspaper, Neues Deutschland, that the new mosque would be an “election campaign gift for (Turkish President) Erdoğan.”

“DITIB offers a prestige project that the city administration can adorn itself with without having to invest a great deal of its own financial resources,” he told the newspaper. He warned that while the project would bring new life to the area, it would amount to gentrification, which could see many current residents being forced out of their homes “because they can no longer afford the rising rents.”

Only SPD currently supports the project, with council members of other parties expressing their concerns about the level of influence held by DITIB, an organization whose proximity to the Turkish state is far from clear.

However, Caroline Lünenschloss, leader of the local CDU parliamentary group, has insisted the council now has “firm trust in the promise of openness, transparency and financial independence” of DITIB from Turkey, which suggests the party is warming to the idea.

“The DITIB project is a great opportunity for Gathe, where things can only get better given the current situation,” another CDU politician is quoted as saying by Neues Deutschland. In a statement, CDU revealed its position that DITIB should only operate the mosque, while other parts of the project including the daycare center and senior center should find other operators.

DITIB has been mired in controversy across Germany for many years, and while it used to receive government funding, funds were cut after the organization refused to participate in anti-terror marches and failed to clean up the often anti-Western, antisemitic rhetoric published by some local branches.

Residents of Wuppertal had only recently published an open letter to the district council about the nature of lectures being given at the existing mosque in the city, accusing historian Mehmet Işık of regularly playing down the Turkish genocide of Armenians and spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories.

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