RELIGION >Former head of Turkey’s top religious body slams TV evangelists

İpek Özbey – ISTANBUL

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Ali Bardakoğlu, the former head of Turkey’s top religious body has slammed popular TV evangelists for “abusing Islam” for commercial purposes. 

Bardakoğlu, who headed the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) between 2003 and 2010, told daily Hürriyet on May 29 that religious TV shows during Ramadan presented a distorted image of Islam. 

“You watch the TV programs during Ramadan, but the shows with the highest ratings are those where anecdotes are told the most and tears are shed. Religion is now presented and perceived as little more than melancholy and tears,” he said. 

“Could such an understanding of religion pull you upwards on the world stage? They describe the life of the Prophet Muhammad in such a way that it becomes impossible to take that life as an example and live that way … They are only trying to increase their clients for their own commercial purposes. This embarrasses me,” Bardakoğlu said. 

“We have fed them this way. We have said, ‘Religion is pain, tears, melancholy and anecdotes.’ We waste time either missing the past or waiting for a savior. We have destroyed the individual, individual conscience and responsibility. We always talk about what happened to us as being either a result of the anger of God or the evilness of others. We have fed a lottery-like understanding by saying, ‘Just keep on praying. Say the most effective and mysterious prayer and you’ll be saved from everything.’ When the public has been fed in this way, they look for religious figures who fit that type,” he added. 

“Those who talk about religion with anecdotes and superstition just because the people want it are involuntarily supporting the idea that religion numbs society,” the former Diyanet head said.

“How will such a religious understanding be met by our children and grandchildren. We are slowly approaching a junction. Our children and grandchildren are questioning, seeing, knowing. A religious narrative that doesn’t include basic values such as the individual, women’s rights, human rights, environmental consciousness, information production, social justice, law, and freedom, but instead only includes melancholy, anecdotes, tears, alienation and anger, will end up bringing Islamophobia to our own neighborhoods,” Bardakoğlu said.


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