Growing ranks of women preachers enhance Islam’s influence on family issues in Turkey

The decision to increase the number and duties of women preachers in Turkey has enlarged the influence and visibility of Islam, especially as it relates to family issues, writes Chiara Maritato in the current issue of the journal Anthropology of the Middle East (Winter). Turkey’s Diyanet, a state-based apparatus under the control of the prime minister to manage religious institutions, including mosques, and the employment of religious officers, including imams, preachers, and muftis, has increased the employment of women, from 2,696 in 2004 to 109,332 in 2017. The “feminization of the Diyanet” can be further seen in the fact that while women made up four percent of the bureau’s personnel in 2004, they made up 16 percent in 2015 (the peak year of female employment). Maritato finds that the expansion of women preachers has helped the Diyanet to employ imams and preachers beyond mosques, as they provide counseling and religious recommendations on everything from the use of toilet paper to hair dye to Bitcoins. The expanded role of religious professionals influenced by the growth of female preachers has resulted in a state-sponsored and state-led diffusion of Islamic morality in the form of family welfare and healthcare ministries, as well as in addressing the concerns of the country’s female population.

(Anthropology of the Middle East,