Turkish group in the crosshairs as France targets ‘shadowy world’

French legislators are currently debating a draft law to crack down on Islamist extremism.
Friday 02/04/2021
An advertising calling for donations put up by the pro-Erdogan Turkish organisation on a construction site in Strasbourg. (AFP)
An advertising calling for donations put up by the pro-Erdogan Turkish organisation on a construction site in Strasbourg. (AFP)

PARIS--A particular Turkish Islamist association stands as an example of the pro-Erdogan Islamist groups whose presence the French government seems bent on curbing.

The Turkish religious association founded by the mentor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no place in France as it goes against French values, the government spokesman said Thursday.

The Milli Gorus association has courted controversy in France in recent weeks by refusing to take part in a government-coordinated charter against Islamist extremism and over its backing of a new mosque in the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Tensions between Paris and Ankara are also running high after a series of rows between Erdogan and President Emmanuel Macron, who warned last week that Turkey would meddle in 2022 presidential elections.

“I consider that this is an association which goes against the values of the (French) Republic, which fights against the values of the Republic, against equality between women and men, against human dignity,” Gabriel Attal told BFM TV in an interview.

“Clearly it should not organise activities and exist in the Republic,” he added, while emphasising he was not announcing that the organisation was being banned.

Milli Gorus is among three Islamic groups in France which in January refused to sign up to the anti-extremism charter championed by Macron after a spate of attacks blamed on radicals.

Based in the German city of Cologne, Milli Gorus is a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora founded by late prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, regarded as the father of political Islam in Turkey and Erdogan’s mentor.

Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has declared in recent years it is distancing itself from Milli Gorus but the organisation continues to promote an agenda that is close to that of the president.

According to its website, Milli Gorus is a “key player in the life of Muslims in France”. It assists with the construction of mosques and religious instruction.

In an interview with Le Point magazine published Thursday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned that the state had “nothing to negotiate” with the groups that refused to sign the charter and would step up controls of their activities.

“That certain associations did not wish to sign it has revealed this shadowy world of foreign interference and extremist movements operating on our soil,” he said.

French legislators are currently debating a draft law on cracking down on Islamist extremism which is seen as seeking to limit the influence of religious groups with foreign funding and restrict their role in education.

Officials in Strasbourg, run by a Green mayor, earlier this month approved a grant of 2.5 million euros (nearly $3 million) to Milli Gorus to build a new mosque, sparking an angry reaction from the government.

The French census only records country of birth rather than ethnic origin. However, it has been estimated that there are up to 1.8 people of Turkish origin living in France.