Charter needs no secularism: NGO

Charter needs no secularism: NGO

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
An association of imam-hatip religious high school graduates has suggested that Turkey’s new constitution abandon secularism as one of the Republic’s basic characteristics and guarantee freedom for religious attire in all spheres of life.

“The principles of nationalism and secularism, which obstruct the formation of a plural, democratic society in Turkey, should be removed” from the Constitution, the İmam-Hatip High School Graduates Association (ÖNDER) said in a report recently submitted to Parliament’s Constitution Conciliation Commission.

The new charter should also drop all reference to “the requirements of the secular state” and give lawmakers and presidents the option to take a religious oath when sworn in, the group said.

“Attire based on religious faith should be free in all spheres of life, and dress codes for students and public employees should be arranged in a way that will not obstruct the fulfillment of the requirements of their faith,” the association said.

ÖNDER also said the new charter should enable the opening of private schools to meet the demand of parents who wish to educate their children in line with their faith.

It suggested that no constitutional provision should be defined as unchangeable and that the definition of citizenship should not refer to ethnic identity.

The report called for arrangements to open the door for optional education in mother tongues other than Turkish at schools where a certain level of demand exists, and for the recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service.

Political parties should be outlawed only if they promote violence and terrorism while closure cases should only be launched with Parliament’s permission, it said. 

The association also argued that the Directorate of Religious Affairs should become an autonomous institution representing all faiths.

In April 2011, ÖNDER, whose members include Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was granted the status of an association working for the public benefit by Cabinet.

Media group presses for freedoms

The Association of Parliamentary Correspondents (PMD) submitted its own presentation to the Commission yesterday, highlighting the need to guarantee a free press. The group urged also simultaneous reforms “to weed out provisions from various laws that obstruct the freedoms of thought and speech,” stressing that more than 90 journalists were in jail and that the number of lawsuits against journalists had reached almost 9,000. It called for a constitutional guarantee for unionization in the media and for the inclusion of the right to information among basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the constitution.