Turkey’s top religious body issues notice on ‘mufti marriages’
The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) on Feb. 2 issued a notice regarding the authority and responsibilities of state religious officials (muftis) to perform and register marriages, which has in recent months been an issue of controversy in Turkey.
According to the notice, muftis will be authorized to register marriages within the region for which they are responsible. Muftis will not have the same authority if one of the spouses is a foreign national, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The responsibilities laid out in the notice include approving applications for a marriage license, preparing marriage documents, conducting the marriage, arranging the family registry, and notifying civil registry authorities about the marriage.
They will also be authorized to deny marriage if they detect any controversial circumstances and if the parties cannot prove the opposite. Muftis will be able to postpone the procedure if it is clearly understood that one of the parties does not have the freedom to express his/her will regarding the marriage, according to the Diyanet’s notice.
After the marriage proceedings are completed, muftis will also deliver a speech on the importance of family. A sample text is included in the notice, emphasizing that the family is “the basis of society” and is “one of the biggest blessings that God makes for human beings.”
They will also deliver a marriage prayer at the end of the ceremony, “wishing health, happiness and plenty for the family,” making reference to Adam and Eve and the Prophet Muhammad.
The notice comes after a contentious legal article allowing muftis to perform and register marriages was published in the Official Gazette on Nov. 3, 2017, formally legalizing the regulation after it was approved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The bill, titled “Draft Law on the Amendment of the Civil Registry Services Act and Some Other Laws,” had passed in parliament with support from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The bill had been submitted to parliament on July 25, 2017, drawing strong criticism from opposition parties and women’s rights groups.
The law previously assigned state registrars in local municipalities to record all marriages.
Critics of the new regulation argue that it will pave the way for “unrecorded marriages” and “child marriages.” They also say it violates the secular principles of Turkey’s civil code and will compromise the civil rights of women, including the right to divorce and heredity.