Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Religious freedoms back on the agenda

"The commission report included a list of recommendations, a list apparently discussed beforehand with the Turkish government, which contained, among many other points, a mention of the need to scrap the reference to religion on identity cards and the elimination of compulsory religious courses in Turkish high schools."

"Some prominent members of the AKP, such as Parliament Speaker Bülent Arınç, immediately accused Europe of prejudice against Turkey, while others, like State Minister Mehmet Aydın (who is responsible for religious affairs) publicly questioned whether European law would eventually prohibit the Turks from teaching Islam to their children."

"These arguments are only natural, but we have to learn from the mistakes of others that these discussions are also futile. The Islamic-rooted AKP might be very sensitive on the religion issue, but at the same time they must understand that many people in this country consider it discrimination to have to state to which sect of Islam they belong to on ID cards.

Do all the people in this country belong to the Hanefi sect? While many Turks belong to other Sunni sects, a substantial portion of this society is Alawite. Some Turkish citizens also believe in religions other than Islam.

Omitting the reference to religion on ID cards, is, therefore, a requirement of a truly secular state.

Similarly, why should all Turkish children be taught the Sunni understanding of Islam? Isn't this some sort of torture to non-Muslim or Alawite children?

It's good that this religious freedom issue has appeared on the country's agenda once again because of the Council of Europe commission report. Perhaps this discussion will help to enhance religious freedoms in Turkey."
Turkish Daily News

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