Germany follows France in taking aim at the so-called ‘Grey Wolves,’ while no such organisation with that name exists in Turkey or Europe.

In recent weeks, the German Parliament discussed a controversial proposal to ban a movement it calls the Grey Wolves, which appears to be inspired by France’s ban of Muslim associations across the country. 

The only problem for banning such a group is that there is no such organisation called the Grey Wolves in either Germany or France. In European usage, apparently, the Grey Wolves refer to a Turkish nationalist movement with connections to Turkey’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), but that movement has never described itself as the Grey Wolves. 

While Turkish nationalists like to use the sign resembling a wolf, there has been no prominent nationalist organisation which has called itself Grey Wolves since the emergence of a pan-Turkic movement in the early 20th century in the Ottoman Empire.  

Since the 1960s, the movement has been known as Ulkucu Hareket in Turkish, which means the Idealist Movement. Across Turkey and Europe, where significant populations of a Turkish diaspora live, there have been various groups that go by the name of Idealists but not as the Grey Wolves.

Before Germany’s discussion of the movement, France also declared a ban on the Grey Wolves, eliciting condemnation from Turkey, which called it an “imaginary decision”. 

“There is no organisation with the name of the Grey Wolves in the world. There is no such group in Germany or France or Belgium or the Netherlands or Austria, etc. I am naming all these countries because the Netherlands also made a decision like France on Tuesday,” said a Frankfurt-based leader of Germany’s Idealists. 

At the end of the German Parliament discussions, there was no banning of the Grey Wolves or Idealists or anything like that, says the leading German-Turkish voice - who wishes to remain anonymous - and who has close connections to both German and Turkish authorities.

The parliament’s decision was to advise the government to keep a close eye over the Grey Wolves and any other groups associated with the “imaginary” group, the source says, indicating that despite the efforts of some anti-Turkish groups in Germany, there was no banning in legal terms. 

Germany's far-right AfD parliament members hold placards during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Berlin, November 18, 2020.
Germany's far-right AfD parliament members hold placards during a session of the German lower house of parliament Bundestag, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Berlin, November 18, 2020. (Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

A deliberate public campaign against Islam

The anonymous TRT World source thinks that behind all the banning efforts, there is a deliberate smear campaign to undermine Muslims’ standing in European countries, creating a perception that the Islamic faith inspires terrorist acts. 

“There is no one, who was convicted with any terrorism charges in Germany or other European countries, being associated with Idealists or the Grey Wolves,” he said. 

As a result, he strongly believes that banning efforts are part of an anti-Muslim campaign across the continent. “I don’t think we can even talk about Islamophobia anymore. Islamophobia means the fear of Islam. But these efforts are directly against Islam in their nature,” he said, referring to Macron’s recent statements. 

“His interior minister feels so much pride to close down 43 mosques across France in the name of fighting so-called Islamic terrorism. These measures are not against terrorism. They are the measures against the right to worshipping for any particular religion,” the source said. 

France’s aggressive interior minister, who compared Muslim immigrants in Europe to ‘barbarians’ at one point, has also ordered the closure of the country’s biggest Muslim civil society organisation, which documents racist and Anti-Muslim attacks. 

When Macron was speaking out against France’s Muslims last month, there was also a police raid on a large mosque, Mevlana Mosque, in Berlin, the German capital. 

“They entered the mosque with their combat boots at 6:00 AM in the morning,” the source said, referring to the incident as a provocative act against the country’s peaceful Muslim community. 

The Idealists, or the Grey Wolves according to European understanding, are overwhelmingly Turks. “But a close examination of recent attacks in France and Europe would show that no Turkish national or person with Turkish origin has been involved in those terrorist attacks,” said Bulent Guven, deputy chairman of the International Democrats Union in Germany. 

“As a result, I believe what they call Islamophobia indeed amounts to an enmity toward Turkishness, [going back to the Ottoman times],” Guven, who is not originated with the Idealist movement, toldTRT World. 

“Under Islamophobia, there is a fear of the Turks. We could call it the Vienna syndrome,” Guven adds, referring to the two famous but unsuccessful Ottoman sieges of Vienna, the then-capital of the old Habsburg dynasty, in the 16th and 17th centuries. 

Erdogan factor

Guven drew attention to a headline in Germany’s well-known publication, Handelsblatt, a kind of German version of the American Wall Street Journal. 

“The headline goes like ‘What does Recep Tayyip Erdogan want?’ The article deals with how so many Syrian refugees come to Europe as a result of the Syrian civil war, comparing their arrival to the continent to the Turkish arrival to the Anatolian Peninsula in the 11th century,” he recounted. 

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as Turkey's drilling vessel Fatih departs for the Black Sea during a ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey May 29, 2020.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as Turkey's drilling vessel Fatih departs for the Black Sea during a ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey May 29, 2020. (Reuters)

President Erdogan has long been a defender of the rights of Syrian and other refugees, hosting nearly four million in Turkey. Also, Erdogan’s assertive policies across the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and most recently, in the Azerbaijan conflict, has raised eyebrows in Europe, particularly in France given that their Libya and Syria policies have not had success.

The anonymous TRT World source echoes Guven’s thoughts. 

“Erdogan’s unpredictable character hesitates all of them so much,” the source assessed, referring to leading European countries like France and Germany. 

“Recent German Parliament discussions were more about Erdogan and his ally Devlet Bahceli, the MHP leader, than the Grey Wolves if you look at speeches,” the source adds. 

Widespread banning and naming of the Idealists as the Grey Wolves has to do less with terrorism concerns of those European countries, than their enmity towards Islam and Erdogan being a fierce defender of Muslim human rights across the world, according to the source. 

“It’s not about Idealists. It’s about Islam,” he concludes. 

Source: TRT World