Monday, March 31, 2008

Turkish court to hear case to close AK Party

Turkish court to hear case to close AK Party | International | Reuters
Turkey's top court agreed on Monday to hear a case to shut down the ruling party for Islamist activity and bar the prime minister from office, heralding months of political and economic instability in the EU candidate state.

The Constitutional Court's decision marks an escalation of a long-running feud between the Islamist-rooted AK Party and a powerful secular elite, including army generals, that accuses AK of plotting to turn secular Turkey into an Iran-style theocracy.

Stop the Martyrdoms

The American Spectator
* Last year in Turkey five Islamic extremists bound, tortured, and killed three Christian religious workers.
So it goes throughout the Islamic world. Not every Muslim hates Christians, Jews, and members of other faiths. And no, not every Muslim country persecutes religious minorities.

But pick any persecuting nation at random. There is a good chance that it will be Muslim, even if it is formally allied with the U.S. government.

YOU WOULDN'T KNOW that from the Western reaction. Right now, talk of interfaith dialogue and Muslim persecution is in the air.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The case against the Ak Party

Quotes from PM Erdogan:
İşte AKP davasının ingilizce metni - Haber 10
Anti-secular Actions and Statements of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of the JDP and the Prime Minister (from p.27 on)

‘‘Turkey, as a modern Muslim country, can be an example to the harmony of the civilizations.”

“It would be wrong to bring together Islam and secularism as concepts. Because individuals cannot be secular. Some perceive secularism like a religion. If secularism is a religion, then a person cannot be a Muslim at the same time. Because a person cannot follow two religions at the same time. By definition, secularism is a system, and that the states and not the individuals can be secular. Belonging to a certain religion is an individual choice.”

“There are Turks, Kurds, Lazes, Circassians, Georgians and Abkhazes and all others living in Turkey. There is an important religious bond that binds together all these ethnic elements we have. Because 99% of the Turkish population is Muslim.”

[To the journalists:] “We have around 30 different ethnicities in Turkey. You write it often as well; religion is like cement in Turkey where 99% of the people are Muslims.”

“I am not secular as an individual, but the state is. However I am responsible to protect the secular order. Yet the people of this country will be bothered if you present secularism as a religion to them. Turkey is going very well, the government is successful. Yet there are some who talk about secularism all the time, trying to reap some benefits through this discourse.”

Should we worry about freedom of religion in Turkey?

The Muslim News - Should we worry about freedom of religion in Turkey?
Given the universal status of freedom of religion and freedom of worship, how can we make sense of what is happening in Turkey where wearing a headscarf is banned in universities and a number of attacks took place targeting non-Muslims? Turkey has a unique character when compared to other states with a majority Muslim population. First, it is a secular state and religion is not a source of legislation. Second, Turkey has a democracy which was nurtured for decades despite military interventions and there is a strong will to protect and strengthen the rule of law in the country. Turkey succeeded in establishing a political culture that facilitated the co-existence of a secular state, democracy and religion in society.

Religious battles in Turkey

World On the Web » World New Media Archive » Religious battles in Turkey
Turkish Christians are close to losing an unconventional but important ally. The Constitutional Court in Ankara is threatening to close the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the name of secularism. Many consider the party Islamist, but the party leaders claim to advocate for religious liberty, offering political protection to minority groups such as Christians, Armenians, and Syriac Orthodox Church.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


On March 20, two members of the Turkish Gendarmerie admitted receiving detailed intelligence regarding a plot to assassinate Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and then, after Dink’s murder, trying to cover up their knowledge by lying to investigators.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Turkey offers tourists a glimpse into early Christian life

Turkey offers tourists a glimpse into early Christian life - 03/21/2008 -
Roughly 70 percent of the sites mentioned in the New Testament -- places like Tarsus, Ephesus, Antioch, Galatia -- are located in present day Turkey, the area where Paul spent almost 20 years working to spread Christianity to non-Jewish residents of the region.

These historic sites, as well as the country's beaches, liberal culture and reputation for safety have made Turkey a favorite vacation spot for Europeans and a growing tourist hub over the last decade.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Catholics Want to Reclaim St. Paul's Birthplace

Tolerance in Turkey: Catholics Want to Reclaim St. Paul's Birthplace - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News
The Catholic Church is pushing for the construction of a Christian meeting center at the birthplace of the Apostle Paul in Turkey. German bishops are demanding tolerance for Christians in Turkey in exchange for their support for mosques in Germany.

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Bearing the Silence of God

Bearing the Silence of God | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
A Turkish theologian finds the image of Christ in the persecuted church.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The fourth trial hearing yesterday against the murderers of three Christians in southeast Turkey was postponed for another month after court clerks failed to file a request to replace judges accused of bias.

Plaintiff lawyers’ official demand to replace the presiding bench of judges had been filed on March 1, but when the Malatya Third Criminal Court convened yesterday it was confirmed that the request still had not been forwarded to the higher court in Diyarbakir, which was designated to rule on it.

Plaintiff lawyers had demanded a new set of judges at the previous hearing on February 25, listing repeated instances of bias and partiality that they declared were “obstructing justice” in the high-profile murder case.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In an effort to prolong the trial of two Turkish converts to Christianity accused of “denigrating Islam and Turkishness,” three gendarme soldiers on Thursday (March 13) were summoned to testify before the Silivri Criminal Court in northwestern Turkey as witnesses for the prosecution – which has yet to provide any evidence for its case.

Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan, who were searched, detained and then charged in October 2006 under Turkey’s controversial Article 301 restricting freedom of speech, have been on trial for 18 months. The case was further delayed Thursday when two witnesses summoned to testify failed to show up, although at least one of them had been in the corridor of the courthouse just before the session started.

Accordingly, the judge ordered that prosecution witnesses Kemal Kalyoncu and Emin Demirci be brought “forcibly” to the next hearing, set for June 24.

Testimony is also expected at the June hearing from an additional three gendarme soldiers in Silivri, as well as three from the Istanbul Gendarme Headquarters.

“From our side, we can say that the outcome of the hearing was positive,” defense lawyer Haydar Polat told Compass. “The witnesses simply confirmed what happened in their investigation, without producing any evidence whatever of the charges against my clients.”

But on the negative side, Polat said, “All these new witnesses are unnecessary.”

The state prosecutor had called for the Christians’ acquittal last July, noting that the youthful plaintiffs in the case had given contradictory testimonies and no credible evidence had been produced to prove the charges. But the new judge assigned to the case in November accepted prosecution lawyer demands to call another dozen witnesses to testify.

“Of course our clients are distressed by this,” Polat told Compass, noting that the two Christians are being required to attend and hear the new prosecution witnesses, some of whom deliberately fail to appear in court. “All these extra witnesses are being called simply for the purpose of prolonging the case. There is no other purpose.”

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Turkish Police Knew About the Planning of the Murder of Hrant Dink

Turkish Police Knew About the Planning of the Murder of Hrant Dink
Ramazan Akyürek, the responsible chief of the secret service in the city of Trabzon, warned the police in Istanbul about the threat against Hrant Dink.

The city of Trabzon, which lies at the coast of the Black Sea, is associated with several attacks against Christians, among others Andrea Santoro, who was murdered by a 16-year old boy on January 5th 2006.

With a letter Ramazan Akyürek requested the police in Istanbul to take measures to prevent a possible attack against Hrant Dink. According to information that was presented during the trial, the Istanbul police chose to not take the warnings seriously and that they did not take any measures.

The police officer Muhittin Zenit, who signed the letter that was sent to the Istanbul police, stated during the trial that they had done everything they could, but that it was the Istanbul police which had not done their job.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Religious tolerance prevails in Turkey, poll shows

According to Zaman . . .
Nearly half, 43.7 percent, of respondents said religion was a highly personal matter, between “man and God,” while 48.6 percent said they saw religion as a system of social reference. The important finding of the survey was that a marginal group, 7.7 percent, would like to see a political system based on religion. In other words, the society does not perceive religion as a political concept.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cave Church in Turkey Caving In

ZENIT - Cave Church in Turkey Caving In
The Cave Church of St. Peter, considered the first Christian church in Antioch, has been closed due to structural concerns.

Capuchin Father Egidio Picucci, noted historian of Turkey and the Early Church, confirmed Sunday to L'Osservatore Romano that Turkish authorities closed the church March 1 due to risks that the structure could cave in.

Also known as St. Peter's Grotto, the church is a natural cave on the western face of Mount Stauris, which towers over Antioch.

After the collapse of large sections, said Father Picucci, “the possibility that further collapses could constitute a serious danger for the security of visitors led the museum directors -- for the Turkish government St. Peter’s Grotto is only a museum -- to take these measures.”

It is widely believed that St. Peter himself dug the cave as a place for the first community of Christians in Antioch to gather.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Christian Turks fear discrimination

Al Jazeera English - News - Christian Turks Fear Discrimination
Christians in Turkey are living under a shadow of fear and insecurity due to a violent backlash by nationalist hardliners. The minority group consists of around 120,000 practising Christians, and while they are legally free to practise their religion, many say they suffer discrimination and persecution. Orhan Picaklar, a Christian pastor, says he has faced the ire of the hardliners for his missionary preachings. Towns like Samsun, in the Black Sea region, where Picalkar practises Christianity, have traditionally been conservative, nationalistic, religious and filled with a core of angry young men who have a deep-seated aversion to being told to change their ways. Picaklar was kidnapped recently by members of a conservative youth body who told him they wanted him to stop his missionary teachings.

Video on Turkey's unsafe Christians
"Our church was stoned, they tried to kidnap my son, they did kidnap me, they put our pictures on YouTube, they spoke to all our friends, bosses and relatives of everyone who come to our church, so as to distance them from us," Picalkar said.

"They say we have prostitutes in the church, they blame us for being subversive elements."

Despite being provided with police protection, Picaklar still fears for his life and says that his telephone conversations are being tapped.

He says national fundamentalists have threatened his friends and relatives in the past and even attacked the church where he preaches.

Violent attacks against Christian missionaries in the country has frightened many pastors and their families to the extent that they prefer not to go outdoors.

Accused of opening churches without having a sizeable congregation, channeling funds for western powers and implanting agents in the region, the missionaries are at on receiving end of hardliners who believe them to be representatives of western powers with a single agenda to undermine Islam.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

ECHR expects Turkey to cancel religious classes

ECHR expects Turkey to cancel religious classes
The European Court of Human Rights expects Turkey to cancel compulsory religious education classes in line with the related ruling and favors to give the states larger room on secularism, the head of the court said on Monday.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Welcome to Islamic Reformation 101

Learn more about Turkey's revisions of the hadith:

Welcome to Islamic Reformation 101 - Turkish Daily News Mar 01, 2008
This week Turkey made international headlines not only with its military's land operation in northern Iraq or its never-ending tug of war over the headscarf.

There was also the scholarly and tedious work carried out by a group of theologians in Ankara, supported by the Diyanet (Turkey's official religious body), to revise the “hadiths” – the words and deeds of Prophet Mohammed. “Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts,” read the BBC's headline. “Turkey strives,” the Guardian observed, “for 21st century form of Islam.” According to the Financial Times, this was “Turkey's fresh look at Prophet.”

Are these far-fetched comments, or does the revision of hadiths by Turkey's officially sanctioned Islamic experts really point to something fundamentally important? To find an answer, one first needs to probe what the hadiths really are. And to do that, one needs to go back to the roots of Islam.

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Turkish court rules religion classes should not be compulsory

Turkish court rules religion classes should not be compulsory - International Herald Tribune
A Turkish high court ruled Monday that religious education classes geared toward Sunni Muslims should not be compulsory, a major victory for a Shiite branch of Islam.

The ruling affecting Turkey's Alevi community is also likely to please the European Union which has made religious liberties a condition for Turkey's membership bid. The EU has been pressing Turkey to address Alevi claims.

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