Sharia encompassing more of Turkish society

Islamic law is gaining ground in large sectors of Turkish society, reports the Washington Post (February 16). “Over the past few weeks, Turkish officials have broken with decades of precedent in what is still, at least nominally, a secular republic: they have begun describing the country’s military deployment in Syria as ‘jihad.’ During the first two days of the operation, which began on Jan. 20, the government’s Directorate of Religious Affairs ordered all of Turkey’s nearly 90,000 mosques to broadcast the ‘Al-Fath’ verse from the Koran—‘the prayer of conquest’—through the loudspeakers on their minarets,” writes Soner Cagaptay. While the secular constitutional system remains in place, recent changes by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been seen as curtailing religious freedom. Since last November 2017, the national police have been monitoring online commentary on religion and censoring commentary they find “offensive to Islam,” Cagaptay adds.

Education is an important sector where Erdogan is seeking to enforce his version of Islamic law, or sharia, in Turkey. The country’s education system, like the police, falls under control of the central government, and the Ministry of Education has been “pressuring citizens to conform to conservative Islamic practices in public schools. The government is formally inserting religious practices into the public education system by requiring all newly-built schools in Turkey to house Islamic prayer rooms. [And] [r]ecently…a local education official in Istanbul demanded that teachers bring pupils to attend morning prayers at local mosques,” Cagaptay writes.  Erdogan’s effort to blend Islamic practices with his political power can also be seen in the recent elevation of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (known as the “Diyanet”) and the status its new leader, Ali Erbas. He “now regularly attends major public events at Erdogan’s side, blessing everything from Istanbul’s third bridge across the Bosporus to Turkey’s campaign against Kurdish militia in Syria.” The Diyanet is now adding to the effort to bring sharia law to Turkish society, recently releasing “a fatwa on its website suggesting that girls as young as 9 and boys as young as 12 could marry” (following an interpretation of sharia law that adulthood begins at puberty). This ruling was withdrawn only after the Diyanet faced significant protests. “And more recently, on Feb. 9, the religious body announced a new plan to appoint ‘Diyanet representatives’ among pupils in every class of Turkey’s nearly 60,000 public schools, bringing public education under closer scrutiny of Erdogan-guided religion,” Cagaptay concludes.