Turkish President Erdoğan warns muftis against ‘TV charlatans’
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned muftis—state religious officials from the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet)—against “TV charlatans,” urging them to take a more active role in informing the public on religious matters.
“When our muftis do not take initiative, [the platform is] left to ignorant, superstitious people and charlatans hosting television shows with music and dancing,” Erdoğan told a group of muftis at the Presidential Complex in the capital Ankara on Oct. 15.
Although during his speech, Erdoğan did not name Adnan Oktar, the controversial televangelist who was arrested in July with many of his followers, local Turkish media have interpreted his remarks as targeting Oktar.
Oktar, who is also known abroad by his pen name Harun Yahya, hosted talk show programs on his television channel, A9, on which he discussed Islamic values and danced with young women he called his “kittens” and sang with young men, who he called his “lions.”
The televangelist’s mansion complex in Istanbul was used as a television set for his unusual shows, which mixed religious sermons with dancing.
“We should not make our mosques places where only prayers are conducted, then everyone disperses and the doors are locked. This is the utmost injustice that can be done to these holy roofs that are branches of the place of God. This is why our mosques should always be kept open,” Erdoğan said.
He also touched upon Turkey’s fight against the illegal FETÖ. The country had mounted its greatest struggle against FETÖ—widely believed to have orchestrated the failed coup on July 15, 2016—under its current leadership, he said.
“The real struggle against FETÖ was only waged in our term. But let me tell you, we were late too. Unfortunately, we paid the price for being late,” the president said.
Citing the December 2013 plot against government ministers and leading businesspeople, Erdoğan said if Turkey had not fought FETÖ since that plot, the 2016 coup attempt would have turned out differently.
Dec. 17-25, 2013 saw a graft probe and the detention of prominent figures in a FETÖ plot to overthrow Turkey’s elected government.
“We should be able to make self-criticisms with an open heart about the July 15 betrayal and FETÖ,” Erdoğan said. He noted FETÖ had been infiltrating the Turkish state structure for 40 years.
“The fact that the threat posed by this organization had not been noticed for many years is a matter that we should all consider sensitively,” he added.