Turkey’s religious head warns against Sunni bias
Zeynep GÜRCANLI / Meltem ÖZGENÇ ANKARA
AA PhotoMehmet Görmez, the head of the Directorate General for Religious Affairs (Diyanet), said July 14 that Turkey should “stay out of sectarian conflict in the Middle East” and preserve its position as an unbiased mediator between Sunnis and Shias.
“Turkey shouldn’t become a party in the conflict between Sunnis and Shias by engaging in Sunnism. It shouldn’t abandon its role as a mediator,” Görmez told journalists during a fast breaking iftar meal in Ankara.
Stressing that the conflicts in the region throughout the past decade “separated Muslims,” Görmez described the Nigerian group Boko Haram and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as symptoms of “a wrong religious understanding in lands that have experienced social traumas.”
“Turkey is a country that has been successful in solving the problem of religious education. Unfortunately, each mosque in [other] Islamic countries has been turned over to separate groups,” Görmez added.
Turkey’s religious head also touched on the result of a controversial recent Diyanet survey where 99.2 percent of people in Turkey are Muslims and 83 percent of people partake in Ramadan. According to figures from the survey conducted with 21,632 people over the past year, 61.1 percent of Turks believe “citizens can perform Islam freely only through a secular state.”
Responding to a journalist’s question on the sensitive subject of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Görmez said the foundation of the museum should be controlled by the Diyanet. “There is a huge demand from our citizens who want the Hagia Sophia to be reopened to [Islamic] religious services. But it is not right to spark a new Crusader war,” he said.
The Diyanet under Görmez has been making headlines with messages of peace and tolerance recently, warning against “declarations of Jihad” in eight languages and urging the Muslim world to “update itself.”