Turkey aims to open Islamic university: Top religious head

Turkey aims to open Islamic university: Top religious head

Fatma Aksu MECCA
Turkey aims to open Islamic university: Top religious head

Mehmet Görmez (C), the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), says a formal application has been made to open an Islamic university in Istanbul. AA photo

The head of Turkey’s top religious body has announced plans to open an Islamic university in Istanbul, as an alternative to other renowned Islamic universities across the world such as Egypt’s Al-Azhar University.

Professor Dr. Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), told a group of journalists in Mecca on Sept. 30 that they had applied to Turkey’s Higher Education Board (YÖK) to open an Islamic university.

Görmez said the current plan was to transform the 29 Mayıs University on Istanbul’s Anatolian side into the International Islamic University, claiming that Islamic universities in Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Malaysia were “unable to find solutions to problems in the world.”

“The main problem today is that Muslims bring suffering, violence and sorrow to each other ... We have applied to YÖK for the transformation of 29 Mayıs University in Istanbul into the ‘International Islamic University’ in order to find peaceful solutions to these problems,” he said.

Görmez said the aim of the new university was to connect with the faculty of theology in Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Frankfurt Goethe University’s Islamic Research Center, Strasbourg University’s Islamic Theology Faculty, and the Higher Islamic Institute in Sofia.

The most prominent Islamic scholars in the world are generally graduated from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Medina Islamic University, the Islamabad Islamic University in Pakistan, the Shiite Al-Mustafa International University in Iran, and the Malaysia Islamic University, where Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has previously given lectures.

“I have been working on the issue for the three years and see that the curriculum of these universities does not help in providing solutions to the problems of Muslims. The scholars who graduate from these universities are becoming the problem themselves, rather than solving the problems. The International Islamic University in Istanbul aims to provide education in English, Arabic, Turkish and Farsi, and will have a mission of supporting these universities rather than becoming an alternative to them,” he added.

Meanwhile, Görmez also touched on the question of Islamic extremism and the emergence of groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Boko Haram and al-Shabaab, repeating his recent criticism of ISIL.

“Unfortunately, the religion that once brought security to the world is now considered a security threat … Muslims stress external factors [for problems], but refrain from admitting internal reasons,” he said.

After admitting the importance of external factors such as colonialism and recent military invasions led by Western countries in the Islamic world, Görmez said Muslims must also solve internal problems such as education and prison systems that facilitate radicalization.

“As long as the relationship between life and religion is not constituted correctly, the division among Muslims will continue,” the Diyanet head said.