Diyanet continues anti-secularism fight under new management

Diyanet continues anti-secularism fight under new management

The head of Turkey’s top official religious body, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), has recently been changed by the government, but it seems that the change has not had any effect on the institution’s anti-secularism stance.

“We should work more than ever to convey the eternal call of Allah and his prophet… to the humanity which struggles desperately in the claws of secularism and deny all values,” Ali Erbaş, who replaced Mehmet Görmez as the head of the Diyanet, said in his first message as the country’s top imam.

“[Diyanet] will continue to secure the religious safety of all citizens by keeping common sense alive against all belief, thought and brain occupiers,” Erbaş also said, outlining the targets of his term. We have all the reasons to believe that “all citizens” here refers only to the Sunnis in the country.

Erbaş’s words were not much different than his predecessor’s, who suggested on Dec. 14, 2015 that the suffering we see today is the result of an evil created by so-called revolutionaries in France in 1789.

“Humanity way set on a different quest with the French Revolution. It envisaged building a more secular world separate from religion. But secularism sent the world into total war by exceeding the amount of violence that stemmed from religions,” said Görmez, who headed the institution from November 2010 to until recently, when he lost support of the ruling party circles reportedly for “weakness in the fight against Gülenists.”

Diyanet is a constitutional institution, whose head is a public employee. The budget of the institution is given by the state, from taxes collected from each and every citizen in the country.

The last time I checked, the article in the Turkish constitution regarding the characteristics of the country was in place (in fact, it is one of the three articles that “shall not be amended, nor shall their amendment be proposed.”)

Article 2 of the constitution states: “The Republic of Turkey is a democratic, secular and social state governed by rule of law, within the notions of public peace, national solidarity and justice, respecting human rights, loyal to the nationalism of [Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk, and based on the fundamental tenets set forth in the preamble.”

Yet here we are, the head of a state institution publicly waging war against one of the characteristics of the Turkish Republic defined in its constitution.

As daily Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök wrote in his column yesterday, Erbaş has been appointed as the head of Diyanet, not as the country’s “sheikh ul-Islam,” who could decide through fatwas what is right and what is wrong.

It is best if the new head of the Diyanet focuses on how to efficiently run his institution, which spent all its allocated budget of 4.4 billion Turkish Liras ($1.3 billion) for 2017 in the first seven months.  
The country already has major problems with many of its characteristics defined in the constitution, including the rule of law and respect for human rights.

But one thing is certain: Secularism, and – despite its problems – democracy are what made this country the one it is today, and they are the reasons people are not running around in the streets trying to kill another (at least for now).

In a pre-dominantly Muslim country, with the majority being Sunnis, not allowing the religious rules dictate the laws and rules of the daily life is what brought us thus far.

Secularism is not, and has not been, “a tool for minority secular elites to oppress the religious majority,” despite what many idiots in the West, and some around here, argue.