Professor stirs outrage after calling non-praying citizens ‘animals’ on Turkish state TV

Professor stirs outrage after calling non-praying citizens ‘animals’ on Turkish state TV

Professor stirs outrage after calling non-praying citizens ‘animals’ on Turkish state TV A professor has drawn an angry reaction after calling those who do not perform Islamic prayers “animals” during a Ramadan program on Turkey’s state broadcaster TRT.

“Let no one be offended, but I will say it firmly, as the verse says it: Animals do not perform prayers, and those who do not perform prayers are animals,” Aşkar said, referring to a Quranic verse on the issue.

After outrage was stirred over the remarks, Turkey’s top religious body, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), issued a statement that “insulting freedom of worship” was unacceptable.

“The place, importance and value of performing prayers in our religion is known by everyone. But deriding and defaming people’s faith and freedom of worship is unacceptable,” the Diyanet said in the statement issued on its Twitter account. 

It added that Aşkar’s interpretations from Quranic verses “do not comply with Islam’s language of wisdom and messages of grace.”

The dean of Ankara University’s Theology Faculty, Professor İsmail Hakkı Ünal, also described Aşkar’s remarks as “unfortunate.”

Ünal said the faculty, of which Akşar is a member, did not approve of such discourse and urged him to issue a “correction” on the issue.

He added that Aşkar’s words were “unacceptable for any sensible Muslim, let alone an academic theologian.”

However, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli refrained from expressing his personal thoughts on the issue, saying it was down to the judiciary to investigate whether the theologian had committed a crime.

“If [what he said] constitutes a crime, the necessary prosecutions and investigations will be made by the judicial authorities. It is out of the question to intervene as the cabinet. My own personal view may also lead to different interpretations, so I’ll pass on the question if you don’t mind,” Canikli told reporters on June 13.

Aşkar’s speech also drew condemnation from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

İsmet Demirdöğen, the CHP’s member of Turkey’s media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), said people with such thoughts should get medical “treatment.”

“It is saddening that such deviant thoughts were expressed on the state TV station, which broadcasts using the people’s taxes. What’s more, the fact that those who have such thoughts are working at universities increases the sadness. Such people should not be on television and they should get [medical] treatment,” Demirdöğen said, adding that the issue was under investigation.

CHP deputy Canan Yüceer also sent a complaint petition to RTÜK, stating that “insulting” and “discriminatory” broadcasts on state television are “unacceptable.”

Yüceer also said such statements alienated people from religion and gave a negative impression about Islam.

CHP Istanbul deputy Eren Erdem also issued a parliamentary question to be answered by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, stating that such incidents “insulted the public” and alienated them from Islam. He also accused the channel of overtly conducting “ideological propaganda” for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

CHP Ankara deputy Ali Haydar Hakverdi, meanwhile, filed a criminal complaint against Aşkar, citing the Turkish Penal Code’s articles on “inciting the public to hatred and enmity,” “hate and discrimination,” and “defamation.”