Turkish court rules religion curriculum too Islamic

A Turkish court has ruled that making the national religious studies course compulsory goes against both the constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights due to only teaching one religion from the perspective of one sect.

“The system is beyond insufficient and constitutes a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights due to not fulfilling the conditions of objectivity and pluralism in regard to religion lessons and not providing an appropriate method that will allow for the beliefs of parents to be respected,” the Istanbul court said.

At present, only those whose families are registered as Christians or Jews are able to opt out of the “Religious Culture and Information on Morality” course, making atheist Hakan Dinler, who brought the case, ineligible to take his daughter out of her primary school religion lessons.

The new curriculum also makes no mention of Alevi Muslims, who make up an estimated 11 percent of the population. Similarly, no space has been given to Turkey's Shia minority, although there are references to the practices of Shafi Sunnis, who are prevalent among Turkey's large Kurdish minority.

This year’s curriculum has come under particular criticism for including the concept of “jihad” for the first time.

Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz defended the inclusion by distinguishing between the “greater jihad”, a struggle of self-improvement , and the “lesser jihad”, or holy war.

However, the published curriculum on the ministry website does not include any reference to self-improvement, while emphasising “the importance of jihad in defending the motherland”.

Turkey has a handful of minority-religion schools protected under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but local authorities have in the past refused to allow those who cannot trace their ancestry directly to Ottoman Jews, Armenians or Greeks to attend.