Turkey's soft power weighs heavy on Europe's Muslims

Turkey uses social pressure and intimidation against the diaspora in Europe to maintain control and silence dissidents, Emirati newspaper the National said in an editorial on Monday, citing a report by a Dutch parliamentary committee.

Tens of millions of euros donated to Muslim organisations and mosques in the Netherlands by the Turkish government “equate to ‘a kind of soft power’ exercised over Europe’s Muslim communities,” the National said, referring to the report.

Qatari funding enables the Turkish government’s political ideology, which is inspired by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, according to the newspaper. Doha’s role in radicalisation among the Muslim diaspora has been “documented extensively in the Qatar Papers,” it said.

A Dutch charity named the Islamic Foundation was “nothing more than an offshoot of the Diyanet,” Turkey’s top governmental body for religious affairs, the National said, citing the parliamentary report. “The notion that a foreign government department could operate in the guise of a religious charity in a country as transparent as the Netherlands is alarming,” it said.

People who testified during the preparation of the report later faced intimidation, while pro-Turkish government groups in the Netherlands went to court to try to stop its publication, according to the National.

Turkish Europeans who are critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government find themselves being harassed overseas “by the very regime they sought to escape”, according to the parliamentarians, who called for more transparency and an end to the coercion by Ankara.

Diyanet-linked charities and mosques have been under scrutiny in Germany for several years, and a documentary released recently by the German television network ZDF presented new evidence of Ankara’s espionage efforts against dissidents in the country.