Head of religious affairs calls for freedom of belief
ANKARA - Anatolia News Agency
Issues regarding Alevis in Turkey are a concern for Sunni citizens as well, head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez says. AA photo
The head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, Mehmet Görmez, has said he is saddened by recent claims suggesting pressure against Turkey’s Alevis is becoming more widespread.
Commenting on the recent tension between Alevi and Sunni groups in the Anatolian province of Malatya, Görmez said that at the time of an incident when Alevi houses were marked he had called the governor of the province to say, “I will wait in front of these houses myself if necessary.”
An angry mob threw stones at the home of an Alevi family and burned their stables down on July 29, after the family allegedly told a Ramadan drummer not to wake them for sahur, the meal before sunrise.
“No one should be condemned or exposed to violence for declaring their beliefs,” Görmez said reagrding the latest incidents in Malatya.
Issues regarding Alevis in Turkey are a concern for Sunni citizens as well, he said. “It is not right to position different segments of society as if they are opposite one another,” he said.
However, Görmez did say that in his opinion it is not right for Islam to search for a new theological status for a religious sect (Alevism), 14 centuries after the birth of Islam.
“While we can solve our problems by getting rid of the legal obstacles and increasing liberties, it is not right to search for new theological statuses and discuss them through the Directorate [of Religious Affairs], which does not have such authority,” Görmez said.
Görmez also revived discussion as to whether Alevism constitutes a separate religion, independent of Islam. According to Görmez, those who consider Alevism to be a different religion should consider such questions as what the holy scripture of Alevism is, or who Alevis consider to be their prophet.
“If Alevism was a recently emerged belief, we would all respect it,” Görmez said, regarding the opinion that Alevis might see themselves as being outside of Islam.