Dear Prime Minister, where do democracy and secularism stand?

Dear Prime Minister, where do democracy and secularism stand?

While Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was criticizing main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu this week, he said the AKP’s aim was to raise religious and conservative youth.

Is that so?

After the “pro-Atatürk youth,” is it now the turn of “religious, conservative youth?”

Will the state make this its business now?

Where will democracy stand in this? Where will true secularism stand?

I’m asking the prime minister: What can I do if I don’t want my child to be raised as religious and conservative? If you are going to train a religious and conservative generation in schools, what will happen to my child?

Can an educational order that aims to raise and train monotype minds as if molded on a turning lathe machine accommodate the versatility and colors that democracy observes?

Won’t democratic culture drown and disappear in such a mentally homogenous environment?

After an era when everything was marked with an Atatürk stamp, will it be now be marked with the religious-conservative stamp?

I have no problem with religion, or conservatism. I respect all.

But I have – I might have – objections to having my child being raised and trained as such.

In short; it is one thing that the leader of a political party is religious and conservative; it is a completely different matter when a prime minister in power comes out and says the government’s aim is to train religious and conservative generations.

I am concerned about this in the name of democracy.

If the prime minister follows such a line then it means that we will be transferring from one authoritarian mentality to another.

I want to highlight another aspect also.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made some correct points while he was criticizing the CHP’s record in the one-party era. This record is full of failing grades.

Among them are perceptions and practices toward religion. There is also the issue of religious education and the authoritarian-secular perspective that did not respect religion.

This was a defective perspective that shoved religious education “underground” in this country.
This perspective enabled the state to control religion by the Religious Affairs Directorate, and this did not accord with true secularism.

The CHP made these mistakes.
Well, what is different today?

I am asking Prime Minister Erdoğan: Has everything in religious education fallen into place today, befitting democracy and true secularism?

Are you able to declare this? Isn’t religion still under the state’s control as part of the Religious Affairs Directorate? Is this true secularism? In a democratic and secular country, shouldn’t the state keep an “equal distance” to all religions, beliefs or disbeliefs? Is there equal distance present here? Are you able to declare this?

Isn’t the Religious Affairs Directorate based on Sunnism? Isn’t it distanced from Alevism? Is Alevism considered equal before the state? Has the headscarf issue been solved?

Dear Prime Minister:
You are right to criticize the CHP’s one-party record. But, almost all the factors you criticized are still continuing.

You have been in power for 10 years. Why have you not corrected them? Or do you want to keep religion under your own control, just like the Kemalist state? Do you simply want to replace authoritarian pro-Atatürk generations with religious and conservative generations, as if produced by a lathe machine?

If so, then it is our right to ask where democracy stands in this and where secularism stands.

Hasan Cemal is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece appeared on Feb 3. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff. HASAN CEMAL -