The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DİTİB) launched an education program to train imams in Germany. In the city of Dahlem of North Rhine-Westphalia, 22 people will be trained in the first phase of a two-year program. In a ceremony marking the launch of the program, Kazım Türkmen, the chairman of the DİTİB, and Markus Kerber, state secretary of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, gave speeches. In his speech, Türkmen said this program is a historical development not only for the DİTİB but also for Germany. Kerber said the program is an important first step, and history will show whether it is “historical” or not. The program, initially hosting 12 female and 10 male students, requires a theology degree from a German or Turkish university in order to enroll. The education program will mostly be in German. The DİTİB was criticized by some German authorities for its high dependency on Ankara. This program will provide an opportunity for the DİTİB to train its own personnel in Germany. The German government does not provide any financial incentive or aid from federal resources to the DİTİB’s programs.
Erdogan has repeatedly warned Turkish immigrants not to assimilate into German society. During a trip to Berlin in November 2011, Erdogan declared: “Assimilation is a violation of human rights.” In February 2011, Erdogtold a crowd of more than 10,000 Turkish immigrants in Düsseldorf: “We are against assimilation. No one should be able to rip us away from our culture and civilization.” In February 2008, Erdogan told 16,000 Turkish immigrants in Cologne that “assimilation is a crime against humanity.”