eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • October 2016 : Diyanet’s report on terrorism

Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) is a secular administrative unit which was established in 1924, before the implementation of the secularism code in 1937. In the Constitution of 1924, the Religion of the Turkish State is Islam. This mention was removed from the Constitution in 1928. In 1937, the principle of Laiklik (secularism) is added to the Constitution. The task of the Diyanet is to execute services regarding the Islamic faith and its practices, to enlighten the society about religion, and to carry out the management of places of prayer. Since 1983, it also has the duty to provide religious services for Turks living abroad through the DITIB (Diyanet Isleri türk Islam Birligi – Religious Affairs of the Turkish Islamic Union). Although the Diyanet’s assigned position is religion-related, its structural and legal mechanisms are secular, and it has recently gained an increasingly political position, especially during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) period.

Furthermore, the Diyanet has given itself a new position, in line with the ruling party’s discourses and actions. In this regard, while the world is suffering the terror activities of DAESH/ISIS, the Diyanet has just published a report – at the time Turkey is involved in cross-border operation with international coalition forces to oppose terrorist forces – about its mentality, activities and relation with Islam. Additionally, according to the Diyanet, one of the goals of this report is to contribute to the awareness-raising process.

The report highlights four important points :

1) The report explains the ideology and mind-set of the terrorist organisation, from the perspective of Turkey’s religion administrative office.
2) The report examines the Islamic understanding of the organization called DAESH/ISIS and their approach of religious texts, and provides information regarding its formation processes.
3) The report gives an explanatory answer to the claim of DAESH/ISIS to be the Caliphate of Islam.
4) The report categorises different groups that have been prosecuted by DAESH/ISIS, such as Ahl-Al-Kitab (people of the Book, i.e. Christians or Jews), Yazidis, women and children.

Ahmet Erdi Öztürk
  • September 2016 : The management of religion in Turkey

There is an ongoing debate in Turkey nowadays concerning both secularism and the Diyanet (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, directorate of religious affairs). Two articles can help to understand the background of these discussions, by highlighting the importance of the Diyanet and explaining the Turkish understanding of secularism.

Firstly, a report on The Management of Religion in Turkey, issued by the Turkey Institute in 2014, describes the relationship between religion and politics in a Muslim-majority country. This relationship has wider implications for the neighbouring region, due to the fact that Turkey has a secular state structure and a mostly Muslim population. In addition, the implications for minorities, control of religion by the State, and freedom of religion or belief, have great significance not only for academic research and discussion but also for day-to-day political decision-making. This analysis is highly relevant to the recent developments in Turkey, currently governed by the AKP (Justice and Development Party), which uses religious rhetoric, and appeals to the public with and through religious sensitivity. Last but not least, the management of religion in Turkey also has an impact on Turkey’s democracy, human rights, equality and good governance. In that sense, it will be closely monitored by the European Union, as stated in its recently published progress report on Turkey.

An article of Murat Somer, from Koç University, "Moderate Islam and Secularist Opposition in Turkey", can also be of interest although having been published in 2007. Developing an argument based in theories of democratic consolidation and religious competition, and discussing the reasons for the secularist opposition to the government, this article analyses how government by a party rooted in moderate Islamism may affect Turkey’s peculiar secular democracy, development and external relations and how Muslims in the world relate to modernization and democracy.

Source : Istar Gozaydın and Ahmet Erdi Ozturk, The Management of Religion in Turkey, Turkey Institute, November 2014 ;
Murat Somer, "Moderate Islam and Secularist Opposition in Turkey", Third World Quarterly Vol. 28, No. 7, 2007, p. 1271–1289.

Ahmet Erdi Öztürk
  • July 2016 : the attempted coup d’état and the religious question

On the evening of 15 July 2016, Turkey was the scene of an attempted military coup, which was ultimately aborted. In Turkey’s contemporary history, the military has seized state power four times, directly in 1960 and 1980, and indirectly, by imposing an administration under orders, in 1971 and 1997. As such, the July 2016 attempt is in line with the country’s political “tradition” where the army has always been the most important political force. As in previous military coups, here too the “religious” was, and still is, at the heart of the debate.
On the very night of the attempted putsch, the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and especially its undisputed leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pointed the finger at their former ally, the Hizmet movement, and its founder, Fethullah Gülen, who has been in exile in the US since 1999.
The Hizmet movement was created by this former Turkish imam in the late 1970s in Izmir, based on the teachings of Said-i Nursi. Since the 1990s, the Hizmet movement (which means “service”) has made its way into two key sectors of society — the media and education — in Turkey but also around the world. It is often compared to the Jesuits (or Opus Dei by its detractors). The movement’s sympathisers, from modest backgrounds, educated in Hizmet schools thanks to scholarships and the support of the financial empire formed by the movement, were able to penetrate the state apparatus from the 1990s. They received help and support from various governments, but their meteoric rise coincided with the coming to power of the Islamist AKP (Justice and Development Party) in 2002. In the early 2000s, the AKP was severely lacking in the educated people needed to conquer the State apparatus, then largely secular and under military control. For a decade, the AKP government, on the one hand, and the Hizmet movement on the other collaborated to format civil servants in all ministries, including the army through the Ergenekon trials in years 2007-2011. The coalition was shattered once the AKP succeeded in gaining control of all areas of power. In 2013, corruption scandals, revealed by wiretaps on police officers accused of being close to Hizmet, deepened the divide and, since then, a reverse purge has begun. From the justice system to education, the universities, the media, banks, etc. : in every sector, public or private, a witch hunt began.
Since the attempted coup, it has grown to phenomenal proportions. Some blame it on Gulenist officers (followers of Fethullah Gülen), who, according to the press under strict government control, had fomented the coup for fear of being ousted from the army. Others see it as a manipulation of power, while still others detect in it an unnatural coalition between Gulenists and secularists to oust Erdogan from power.
Whatever the case, this coup attempt created an atmosphere that was concurrently ultra-religious (for 48 hours, mosques called loudly for prayer) and ultranationalist (giant rallies were held, with the participation of the Kemalist-Nationalist Party and the far right, which feared it would otherwise be associated with the putschists).
Since that time, the purge of the State and the private sector has continued at top speed. Nearly 200,000 civil servants have been stripped of their status. Hundreds of schools and universities have been closed, and dozens of newspapers and television channels banned. It is a putsch, instrumentalised by the government to complete the transformation of a regime into an ultra-presidential system where all the powers were grouped into the hands of the President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Since 15 July, the slightest criticism or opposition is immediately accused of putschism and/or Gulenism. The only ones not to be included in this Turkish-style “National Front” was the party close to the Kurds and the democrats, reduced to a trickle, and caught between the hammer (a military junta coupled with an esoteric brotherhood) and the anvil (an Islamist and nationalist authoritarian regime).

Samim Akgönül
  • 25 April 2016 : The Turkish Parliament Speaker calls for a religious constitution

On 25 April 2016, Ismail Kahraman, the speaker of the Turkish Parliament, pleaded for the removal of the principle of secularism in the constitutional reform called for by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kahraman deems that Turkey’s next constitution must be religious as it is a Muslim country.
This controversial claim has sparked many reactions. Protests against the risk of a religious constitution have broken out in the country’s major cities (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir), and were violently repressed by the police. The opposition parties (CHP, HDP) called for the resignation of the Parliament Speaker.
However, the draft of the new constitution maintains the idea of secularism, and the AKP has not even raised the possibility of removing it, said the head of the constitutional committee and AKP MP Mustafa Sentop on 26 April.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu assured on 27 April that the new Turkish constitution would maintain the secular character of the State.

Sources : Habertürk, Cumhuriyet, Hürriyet, France 24.

Nihal Durmaz
  • January 2016 : Turkish civil servants’ schedules adjusted for Friday prayers

The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on Tuesday, January 5, at a meeting of the parliamentary group of his Justice and Development Party (AKP), his intention to publish a decree that would adjust lunch break times for civil servants so desiring, in order to practise Friday prayer without encroaching on working time.

Source : Le petit journal-Istanbul.

Nihal Durmaz

D 1er septembre 2016    AAhmet Erdi Öztürk ANihal Durmaz ASamim Akgönül

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