Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Religious groups call on gov’t to draft secular constitution

A number of religious groups' leaders who gathered on Monday to introduce a study on the demands of various religious groups in Turkey said that the new constitution of the country should be secular.

“This is a Sunni state because the Religious Affairs Directorate sponsors only the affairs of Sunni adherents of Islam. No Jewish, no Christian, no Alevi can get a cent from the huge budget of the directorate. There is no such secular state in the world,” said İzzettin Doğan, the head of the Cem Foundation, an Alevi organization.

Speaking at the release of the study, “Belief Groups in Turkey: A new framework aimed at issues and demands,” hosted by the İstanbul Policy Center at Sabancı University and its Education Reform Initiative, Doğan emphasized the importance of being neutral, non-discriminative and maintaining an equal distance to all belief groups in a secular state.

“The Religious Affairs Directorate should be restructured from A to Z to include all religious groups,” Doğan added and said that their work will help to push the government to not put its intentions to make a new constitution aside.

The report’s suggestions included that opening places of worship should be a right; the state should take initiatives regarding handing down religious beliefs from one generation to another, religious leaders’ selection and education; beliefs and members of religious groups should not be seen as threatening elements to societal and cultural security, and they should be treated as Turkey’s historical and cultural richness; and all religious groups should be treated equally without discriminating against them.

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