Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will send around forty new imams to Belgium in 2020, a lot more than in previous years.
They are being sent in response to the shortage being faced by many Turkish mosques, Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen reported on Tuesday.
“Some are only coming here for a month and serve to make up for the shortage of imams during Ramadan,” Hakan Celiköz, a member of the governing council of the Flemish-Turkish association Union Turque (Turkse Unie), explained. “But others will stay longer. Sixty per cent of our imams have to be replaced because their residence permit is limited to three years and, in many cases, has already expired.”
At the Belgian HQ of Diyanet, the Turkish authority responsible for the conducting of Islamic religious matters in Turkey and Turkish diasporas throughout the world, there was no one available on Monday to make a comment on this state of affairs. Flanders has fifty mosques belonging to Diyanet. Thirteen of them have been recognised and are subsidised.
According to Celiköz, it is mainly in non-recognised mosques that the greatest shortages are encountered.
Sending imams from Turkey is in any case controversial because the government would prefer these religious leaders to be named and trained by the Executive of Belgian Muslims. Furthermore, Diyanet has a reputation for being the “long-arm” of the Turkish regime, with influence on much more than just religion.
According to State Security, Diyanet is causing a polarisation within the Turkish community by presenting opponents of Erdogan’s party as “enemies of the State.”