Only Christian, Jewish children exempt from Turkey’s religious education
Gönül Koca ANKARATurkey’s compulsory religious education classes in schools are again being debated, with the authorities saying that only Christian and Jewish students will be exempt from compulsory Sunni Islam courses at school.
According to the directive sent by the Education Ministry’s Religious Education Directorate to provincial officials on Feb. 3, the “religion” field of a child’s identity card will be checked to decide whether they are allowed to opt out of religious education classes. If the field is left empty, or if any religion other than Christianity and Judaism is written, then the student will be obliged to take the class.
Previously, Turkish authorities had considered it adequate for a student to opt out of the controversial classes if their father or mother is either Christian or Jewish.
One father, speaking to daily Hürriyet on condition of anonymity, said he is Christian and his wife is Muslim, and would now have to change his son’s identity card details.
“We had left the religion field on our child’s identity card empty to allow him to decide when he turns 18. Now I will be forced to have them write Christian on the card,” he said.
Only Christians and Jews are formally considered a minority, according to Turkish law.
The European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) had ruled in a Sept. 16, 2014 decision that the Turkish education system was “still inadequately equipped to ensure respect for parents’ convictions” and violated the “right to education,” in a case stemming from Alevi complaints about compulsory religious classes. Turkey appealed to the ECHR’s Grand Chamber, the court’s office of appeal, on Dec. 18, 2014, the last day available to do so, requesting that the case be reviewed.