Baghdad twin suicide bombing kills 38

An Iraqi security member inspects a damaged vehicle in the area where a double suicide bombing killed 38 people in central Baghdad on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2018
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Baghdad twin suicide bombing kills 38

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Abadi called for the elimination of Daesh “sleeper cells” on Monday after a twin suicide bombing killed 38 people in Baghdad in the second such attack in three days.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but most such attacks in Iraq are the work of Daesh.
The bombing comes after Abadi’s government declared victory over Daesh in December and as the country gears up for parliamentary elections.
“Two suicide bombers blew themselves up in Tayyaran Square in central Baghdad,” said Gen. Saad Maan, spokesman for the Joint Operations Command which includes the army and police.
Tayyaran Square is a bustling commercial center and a place where day laborers gather in the early morning waiting for jobs. It has been the site of deadly attacks in the past.
Iraqi analyst Hisham Al-Hashemi said attacks at the square since 2011 have killed 180 people, “often in the run-up to elections or just after the polls.”
They aim to “create chaos and exacerbate sectarian divisions,” he said.
Security forces cordoned off the scene of the blasts as ambulances gathered in the area, said an AFP journalist.
Abadi held an emergency meeting with the Joint Operations Command and intelligence officials after the attack, his office said, asking them to “eliminate Daesh sleeper cells” and ensure the security of civilians.
Analysts have warned that Daesh would increasingly turn to such tactics as it was pushed underground after losing territory spanning the Iraq-Syria border.
Just hours after the first attack, another person was killed and three wounded in a grenade explosion east of Baghdad, the police said, blaming it on a tribal dispute.
Attacks increased in Baghdad after the start in 2016 of a battle to retake second city Mosul from Daesh. Iraqi forces retook the northern city in July last year.
In December, the government announced the “end of the war” against Daesh, which has been expelled from the Baghdad region and urban areas of Iraq that it controlled. Terrorist elements are still active, however.
On Saturday, a suicide bomb attack near a security checkpoint killed at least five people in northern Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for that bombing.
And last November, Daesh claimed an attack by suicide bombers on a market on the outskirts of Baghdad that killed 11 people.
The latest attacks come as Iraq gears up for elections in May, with voters deeply concerned about security in a country wracked by violence since the 2003 US-led invasion.
On Sunday, Abadi said he would stand for re-election in the parliamentary polls as the head of a new coalition.
Abadi’s newly created “Victory Alliance” will compete against the “State of Law” bloc of Nuri Al-Maliki, his predecessor and a key rival who now holds the post of vice president.
Both Abadi and Al-Maliki are members of the Shiite Dawa party.
Abadi was little known when he became premier three years ago, after Al-Maliki ceded power to him in August 2014 amid Daesh’s sweeping offensive across the country.
Since taking over, Abadi has also rebuilt the armed forces and taken back disputed areas in the north from the Kurds, dashing their hopes for independence.
He has succeeded in convincing the Hashd Al-Shaabi that helped fight Daesh, to join his “Victory Alliance.”
The Popular Mobilization Units are now seeking to become a key political player in Iraq after proving to be a formidable force on the battlefield.


‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

Updated 26 March 2019
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‘Homegrown Islam project’ could lead to new Ankara-Berlin tensions

  • Markus Kerber: “What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany”
  • Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community

ANKARA: Germany has reportedly initiated a campaign to push German Muslims to develop a new interpretation of Islam, the Financial Times reported on Monday. 

“What we need now is an Islam for German Muslims that belongs to Germany,” Markus Kerber, the government representative responsible for relations with the Muslim community under the German Interior Ministry, reportedly told the Financial Times.

The move of Europe’s economic powerhouse is expected to influence Turkey’s state-led diaspora engagement with German-Turks as well as its state-level relations with Germany. But experts do not anticipate relations to further deteriorate as they say they are already as bad as they can get. 

Turks, mostly from the conservative section of society, have been emigrating to Germany since the early 1960s; originally as guest workers during the economic boom. They have since become the largest Muslim community in the country. 

Germany’s new plan aims to counter foreign influence on the Muslim community and provide homegrown training to all imams preaching in Germany. 

The largest Islamic organization in Germany is the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, which is affiliated to Turkey’s state directorate for religious affairs. Turkey is sending imams to Germany who are paid by the Turkish government and who are preaching in Turkish in 900 mosques funded by Ankara.

According to Yoruk Halil, a halal butcher living in Frankfurt, Germany’s new move will be beneficial for the Turkish Muslim community. 

“Those imams coming from Turkey do not benefit Turkish youth in Germany because these young people have been raised with a totally different culture and they mostly speak German, so they cannot establish a healthy dialogue with those imams,” Halil told Arab News. “In order to reach out to the Muslim community, including Turks, there is a need to use homegrown imams. 

My 15-year-old son has been going to the mosque for five years and he even told me that he has better communication with imams being trained and educated in Germany,” he said. 

There is also a continuing debate over requiring Muslims in Germany to pay a worship tax.

Turkey is against any “Germanification” of Islam and considers any redefinition of Islam for Germany against the universality of the religion. 

Germany’s move intends to further integrate Muslims’ daily routines into German society, to boost the loyalty of the 3 million members of the German-Turkish community.  It is therefore considered a move for breaking the Turkish community’s ties with their national and religious identity as well as their traditions.

Last year, German police recorded some 578 hate crimes against Muslims between January and September, while about half of Germans think that Islam is incompatible with the values of their nation, according to recent research by pollster YouGov.

“Turkey has been developing diaspora politics since the mid-2000s, and Turks in Germany have been put at the center of it,” Murat Onsoy, an expert in Turkey-Germany relations at Hacettepe University in Ankara, told Arab News. 

However, for Onsoy, the presence of imams in Germany who have been appointed by Turkey is a socialization factor for the Turkish diaspora — who show relatively low rates of crime — and to maintain their links with their home country. 

“If Germany rejects Turkish funding to these mosques, they will face serious difficulties in covering their expenses,” he said. 

Germany has a community of about 4.5 million Muslims worshipping at about 2,400 mosques, and the number is expected to rise with the refugee influx from Muslim countries such as Afghanistan and Sy The German federal constitution, called Basic Law, gives autonomy to Muslim communities to receive funding and religious officials from abroad to operate mosques in Germany. 

“It is unlikely that this article of the constitution would be easily amended. Various provinces would react to such a move, resulting in widespread protests. The Turkish government would raise the issue at the intergovernmental Islamic organizations, and the German government would be obliged take a step back,” Onsoy said. 

He, however, draws attention to the timing of the debate. 

“It coincides with the upcoming local elections in Turkey this Sunday, and in the past we witnessed that such potential crises with Western countries have been used by the ruling government to consolidate its voters through engaging in international polemics and assuming the role of the defender of external Turks and ‘Islam’ worldwide,” he said. 

Ayhan Kaya, professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said that the move in Germany to bring a homegrown reading to Islam had already been on the table since Angela Merkel’s initiative in 2006. 

“Although it contradicts with the Sunni Islam rhetoric, what Germany did is a counter-move against the lobbying strategies of Muslim countries such as Turkey, Morocco or Algeria within German territories,” he told Arab News. 

Kaya also noted that in the past Germany and Turkey developed joint projects to train imams who would be appointed in Germany by providing them with linguistic and cultural-integration skills. 

“This latest move is a dialectic result of the political maneuvers on the diasporas by countries who are sending and receiving migration,” he said.