Hey Muslims: Be a Sunni, don’t hold hands

Hey Muslims: Be a Sunni, don’t hold hands

I try hard not to be “the idiot who always writes about Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs and Alevis.” But the Diyanet and its head, Mehmet Görmez, make it very difficult to resist the temptation.

Millions of people around the world believe in things that are stupid to others, such as evil – or godly – aliens, fairies, trolls, almighty trees or Santa Claus. Millions of others tell people how to live their lives as a “true believer.”

But it is a different story when a country’s top religious body, which enjoys billions of dollars of state funds, dictates “the truth,” or when its top official puts Sunni Islam above all sects by saying “it is the only right path.”

In its latest episode of the popular soap opera “How to live like a true Muslim” earlier this week, the Diyanet released a fatwa telling engaged couples not to hold hands or spend time alone together during their engagement period.

“In this period, it is not inconvenient for couples to meet and talk to get to know each other, if their privacy is considered. However, there could be undesired incidents with or without their families’ knowledge … such as flirting, cohabitating or being alone [with one another]. This encourages gossip and holding hands, which Islam does not allow,” the Diyanet stated, urging couples to fulfil their engagement period “in line with Islamic norms.” 

According to the Diyanet, Muslims should take a not-so-close look at their future significant others and take the plunge without wasting much time. After all, the time you will spend getting to know each other will only shorten the amount of time left to raise at least three children.

This could have been just another amusing story - just like when Diyanet declared last April that using toilet paper was permitted in Islam - if it did not come at a time when Turkey’s top religious civil servant has unleashed the sectarian inside him.

“The main path [of Islam] is being invaded by errant byroads,” Diyanet head Görmez said during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 3. “Ahl as-Sunnah [Sunni] is the main path. It is not a sect. We see that byroads are trying to invade this main path.”

It took just a day in Saudi Arabia for Görmez to say what he actually believes: Sunni Islam is the only Islam and all others, even those who deem themselves Muslims, are trying to bring it down.

Such a person would surely not favor any “competition” in his own country. So even the idea of giving a legal status to cemevis, the Alevi houses of worship, irritates the man whose wages, home and luxurious official car are provided by taxes paid to the state. 

Granting a legal status to cemevis is a “red line” for the Diyanet, Görmez said in earlier remarks in Saudi Arabia.

“We cannot give a religious status to cemevis. We have always had two red lines and we have never abandoned them. The first is the definition of Alevism as a path outside Islam, which contradicts 1,000 years of history. The second is defining cemevis as alternatives to mosques as a place of worship,” he said.

Finally, it is official. The Diyanet has no use for the non-Sunni or non-Muslims in this country. After all, they are on the wrong path and should come to their senses before it’s too late to avoid the fire of hell. Billions of dollars spent every year cannot be too much considering the eternal pain that the Diyanet is trying to keep us safe from.

Görmez’s visit to Riyadh, during which he also sought “ways of combatting religious extremism,” started a day after the kingdom executed 47 people, including a prominent Shiite figure, throwing the region into more sectarian turmoil.

One would expect the top religious official of a country aspiring to be a regional powerhouse to say a couple of words on the issue. But I am happy that Görmez kept his silence – perish the thought, he might have welcomed the execution of “errant terrorists.”