Turkish Alevis release list of suggestions for ‘pluralistic’ religious education in new curriculum
A Turkish Alevi foundation has released a list of suggestions that was submitted to the Education Ministry on Jan. 30 to demand that officials include lessons on their faith in religious classes amid changes to the country’s curriculum.
Members of the Cem Foundation, a foundation that represents a portion of Turkey’s Alevi sect, which is often depicted as a liberal branch of Islam, held a press meeting to introduce their suggestions for religious classes from the fourth grade to the 12th grade, arguing that their faith was previously described in a discriminatory fashion in the previous curriculum and that their system of worship and prayers should be included in the new curriculum as is the case for the Sunni interpretation of Islam.
Cem Foundation President Erdoğan Döner said Turkey been the subject of numerous cases at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on charges that the country had violated Alevis’ rights to education with its school practices.
“Taking the plaintiffs’ demands into consideration, the ECHR ruled that the classes should be taught in a pluralistic way and be elective. The Education Ministry recently announced that it was carrying out a curriculum work and asked for contributions from all the public. We, as the Cem Foundation, have prepared our own draft education program and sample texts,” said Döner, adding that according to the ECHR, the state was conducting discrimination against Alevis and that it should allocate some of its budget to Alevis to transfer their faith to future generations.
Theologian Cemil Kılıç also said the current religions class taught in Turkish schools did not reflect the richness of faith in Turkey but was instead highly Sunni-centered. He also said the terminology regarding the Alevi faith in the current and previous curricula were problematic and that it was unacceptable to describe Sunni worship practices as “obligations” and Alevi worship practices as “tradition.”
Lawyer Ulaş Çam also said Turkey violated the rulings of the ECHR and that it could lose its seat at the Council of Europe if it continued along its current trajectory.
Çam also said they wanted to put the secularism article in the constitution into real life.
Alevi Faith Services President Eşref Doğan also said they needed modern education institutions to train Alevi religion experts.
Some of the suggestions for the foundation for the religion class in the new curriculum include the teaching of Alevi prayers; instruction regarding the Sunni and Alevi faiths in the same chapters in a unified, not separate, way; instruction regarding the Cem and Salah worship practices; and instruction regarding the fasts of both Muharram and Ramadan and that they are both obligations.