Jan 19 2018

Turkish state religious authority falling captive to political Islam - Economist

Turkey’s directorate of religious affairs, or Diyanet, was set up to supplant other forms of Islamic belief and to tame religion within a secular state, The Economist wrote, but after 15 years of Islamist government the institution has not only ballooned in size but also begun to serve Islamist aims.

“Over the past decade, and especially amid the purges that followed a coup attempt in 2016, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development (AK) party have tightened their grip on state institutions, restricting dissent within and without. The Diyanet has been no exception,” the news magazine said.

“Designed as a check against political Islam, the directorate has become one of its main platforms.”

The institution, which employs all of Turkey’s imams, now has a staff of 117,000 people, and its budget has grown more than fourfold since 2006, The Economist said.

However, a recent scandal over an entry on its website that said girls could get married as young as nine years old led to even louder criticism of the institution, it said.

“Turkey is not about to become a theocracy,” it said. “But the heterodox, tolerant Islam that has set it apart from much of the Middle East is under threat. Despite its original purpose, the Diyanet is not helping.”