The Turkish Shia communities in Germany differentiate themselves according to their roots in east Anatolian Twelver Shiism (“Caferi”; mostly refugees from Russian Azerbaijan, who came to the district of Iğdır after 1918) or as converts from Turkish Sunnism after the “Islamic Revolution” in Iran. Conversion from Sunni Islam to Shiism is in fact quite an important aspect of Germany’s Shiite population; numerous interlocutors with a Turkish background who had converted to Shia Islam after 1979 were observed. In addition, the Özoğuz brothers, who run various Shiite websites, are converts from Sunni-Hanafi Islam. In studies on conversion to Islam in Europe available so far (such as those by Shanneik on Ireland or Özyürek on Germany), the topic of “inner-Islamic conversion” in the diaspora has so far not been in focus, just like conversion to other Muslim denominations than Sunni Islam.
Some Turkish Shia communities in Germany, probably the majority, still very much define their identity in terms of their national backgrounds (and sometimes in terms of their linguistic, Azeri-Turkish identity). However, some communities today (as in Bochum) include a mixture of both types of groups. Another split within Azeri communities was observed: those who orientate themselves more towards, and those who prefer a dominant “Turkic/Turkish” expression of belonging. Such a split into two distinct congregations was observed in the Ruhr area town of Gelsenkirchen. In contrast, there are two Turkish communities in Nuremberg, one based on a group of converts from Sunni Turkish Islam, and one more Azeri/Caferi oriented. In Berlin, there is an Alevi community too that is in the process of becoming a member of the IGS. Their officials try to uphold typical Alevi (ritual) traditions, such as the cem congregational ritual, as well as making use of the Shia Islamic ritual repertoire at once. Like all the Alevis encountered within the “Shia field” in Germany, they firmly distance themselves from the Alevi umbrella organisation Alevitische Gemeinde Deutschland e. V. (AABF), which considers Alevism to be a religious tradition distinct from and “outside” of Islam.
Taken from “Shiite “Communities of Practice” in Germany
By: Robert Langer and Benjamin Weineck