"Perverse" deists don't belong in Turkish nation – Religious affairs head

Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), has waded in to an ongoing debate on the deist belief with a harsh statement against its proponents, Turkish daily Birgün reported on Thursday.

Deism, the belief in a non-interventionist creator god, may seem an unlikely candidate to emerge as a sensitive or hot topic. Yet it has struck a nerve in Turkish political leaders since a local religious affairs administration in the central Anatolian city of Konya published a report in April stating that Turkish youths were turning away from Islam to deism.

Nationalist Action Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli took deist beliefs to task, calling it “one step before atheism” and castigating youths who held the beliefs.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later called his education minister to the podium during a speech in parliament to discuss deism with him in an irritated exchange.

 Next it was Diyanet head Ali Erbaş’s turn to wade in, with a statement that poured scorn on the seemingly innocuous non-denominational belief system.

“No member of our nation would give credit to such a perverse, false notion,” said Erbaş.

“Deism means denying the Prophet (Muhammad),” continued Erbaş. “Which Muslim can deny the Prophet and remain as a Muslim?”

Although Turkey’s state-run Directorate of Religious Affairs predominantly caters to the country’s large Sunni Muslim majority, Turkey is by its constitution a secular state, with citizens including Alevi Muslims, Christians and Jews as well as atheists and, presumably, deists.