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Islamic Cultural Centers

By:
Hanns Thomä-Venske
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Islamic Cultural Centers

In 1973 the Süleymanlı movement began to found Islamic Cultural Centers (Islam Kültür Merkezleri Birliği) in Germany and other countries to organize labor migrants from Turkey and meet their religious needs. With 313 communities and about 18,000 members, the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers became one of the largest associations of Turkish workers in Germany. In 1980, there were also fifteen Islamic Cultural Centers in the Netherlands, nine in Austria, six in Switzerland, two in Denmark, and one each in Sweden, Belgium, and France. The influence of these other nongovernmental Muslim organizations has decreased, however, since the Turkish Islamic Union of the Office for Religion (Diyanet Işleri Türk-Islam Birliği) started to organize Turkish Muslim communities in Germany and other European countries in the 1980s.

The Süleymanlı movement, today with around 300,000 members in Turkey, originated with Süleyman Hilmi Tunahan (1888–1959). A member of the Naqshbandīyah, a Ṣūfī order, Tunahan founded a tradition-oriented, fundamentalist movement for the revival of Islam. It presses for Qurʿān courses and for a reestablishment of the sharīʿah and caliphate in Turkey. Like the Naqshbandīs, the Süleymanlıs are Sunnīs and tend to the Ḥanafī dogma and the orthodox theology of Maḥmūd al-Māturīdī al-Samarkandī (d. 944). The Süleymanlıs believe that they can find enlightenment only through the mediation of Tunahan by the ritual of rābiṭah (mystical union). The dogma is clandestine, known totally only by the shaykh himself and revealed partially to believers. The Süleymanlı movement was forbidden from time to time in Turkey because of its anti-laicist tendencies. It is alleged to have developed a camouflage ideology, which encourages followers to infiltrate other groups and, for tactical reasons, to express views they do not really hold.

The Islamic Cultural Centers are organized strictly hierarchically as an association of communities subordinated to the Islamic Cultural Center in Cologne, Germany. Two basic structures are to be distinguished: the inner circle, formed by the members of the Süleymanlı movement, and the outer circle, by the members of the Association of Islamic Cultural Centers. In 1980 the Islamic Cultural Centers were accused, particularly by the German Trade Unions (DGB), of advocating Islamic fundamentalist and ultraright positions in their Turkish-language papers while stressing in their German publications their desire for integration, cooperation with the state authorities, and recognition of the constitution of the Federal Republic. Since the end of the 1980s, some authors point out that the Islamic Cultural Centers are well accepted by other Muslim organizations, that the Islamic lessons they offer to the outer circle enjoy a good reputation, and that political concepts are propagated especially within the inner circle. In 1979 the Islamic Cultural Center in Cologne made an application for recognition as a “public law body,” but the application was refused.

See also GERMANY and TURKEY.

Bibliography

  • Gerholm, Thomas, and Yngve Georg Lithman, eds.The New Islamic Presence in Western Europe. London and New York, 1988. Collection of essays on the institutionalization of Islam in various countries and on the changes in the religious experience through migration. Find it in your Library
  • Kroissenbrunner, Sabine. “Turkish Imams in Vienna.” In Intercultural Relations and Religious Authorities: Muslims in the European Union, edited by W. A. R. Shadid and P. S. van Koningsveld Leuven, Belgium, 2002. Find it in your Library
  • Ögelman, Nedim. “Documenting and Explaining the Persistence of Homeland Politics Among Germany 's Turks.”International Migration Review37 (2003): 163–193. Find it in your Library
  • Özcan, Ertekin. Türkische Immigrantenorganisationen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Berlin, 1989. Insightful study of political organizations and political orientations among Turkish immigrants in Germany. Find it in your Library
  • Yukleyen, Ahmet. Localizing Islam in Europe: Turkish Islamic Communities in Germany and the Netherlands. Syracuse University Press, 2012. Find it in your Library
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