Turkish state religious body becoming more powerful - commentator

Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) is becoming more influential and more radical the longer the Justice and Development Party (AKP) remain in power, journalist Rose Asani wrote for The Spectator.

“As it moves closer to the current administration and shelters under its wings, it has shifted to a hard-line interpretation of Islam,” she said.

“Given that this body is responsible for the country’s religious education, including that of children, there are concerns this could lead to a new generation of more radicalised Turks.”

The body had effectively given underage marriage a religious seal of approval earlier this year, Asani said.

“In January, the country’s main opposition party called for an inquiry after the Diyanet said that, under Islamic law, girls as young as nine could marry,” she said.

“The directorate later insisted it was only defining points of Islamic law, but that didn’t stop an outpouring of anger on social media from women’s groups.”

The Diyanet is also accused of using its wide network of imams in Turkish communities overseas as an espionage network, Asani added.

“A report in 2016 suggested the religious body had gathered intelligence via its imams from 38 countries, including the UK, on the activities of suspected followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the man Turkey accuses of being behind a failed coup that year,” she said.