Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Who Owns Turkey’s Mosques?

Good article discussing the complex situation religious institutions face with regards to property ownership:

The Turkish Court of Cassation, a high court before which ordinary court decisions can be appealed, has recently engaged in an interesting discussion in connection with cases of thefts from mosques. The discussion was on the question whether the mosques are public property or just places of worship. The qualification of the crime would be changed according to the legal qualification of the mosques. The high court finally concluded that mosques are just places of worship.

This discussion is proof that there is confusion in even the minds of minds about the status of mosques in Turkey. This is because the state’s control of religion in Turkey is so strict that the status of mosques may appear controversial. All imams in Turkey are civil servants, and they are appointed to these mosques by the Religious Affairs Directorate, which is operating under the authority of the prime minister's office.

The high court finally decided that mosques are places of worship, not public property. But it did not provide an answer to who are the owners of Turkey’s 80,000 mosques. These mosques are governed by civil servants appointed by the Religious Affairs Directorate, with some of the mosques belonging to foundations and associations, while others belong to the treasury.
Turkey does not recognize religious communities, neither grants legal personality to their religious institutions. In other words, mosques and churches are not recognized as such. Namely, mosques are the mosques of the Religious Affairs Directorate or they belong to an association or foundation. Mosques, churches and their congregations are not recognized as legal entities. Instead, the Religious Affairs Directorate, foundations and associations represent them legally.

There is a tremendous gap in the field of religious affairs. Turkey, to be a democratic country, must recognize religious communities and their institutions in its constitutions and laws. Then, it must pass a law concerning religious institutions that will govern the relations and needs of religious groups. This law should further regulate such matters like establishing places of worship, recruiting staff, training clerics, collecting donations, holding meetings and ceremonies, running training courses, acquiring property and building care facilities for the elderly. The criteria for recognizing places of worship should be objective, like the number of attendants; it should not be up to the state to decide whether a cemevi or Buddhist temple is a place of worship or not. Likewise, Turkey should stop meddling with the internal affairs of the patriarchates of non-Muslims, and constitutional and legal guarantees should be provided to these institutions.

In short, when it comes to freedom of religion, Turkey has a very long way to go.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/05/turkey-mosque-ownership.html#ixzz2Tv0Agq5H

No comments: