Turkish civil servants’ time off for Friday prayers now official, legist takes decision to high court
AA photoA legal arrangement allowing for public servants to attend Friday prayers without interrupting their office hours has gone into force, as a related circular by the Turkish Prime Ministry was published in the Official Gazette on Jan. 8.
However, a leading legist has swiftly taken the arrangement to Turkey’s Council of State, arguing it violated the law and asking for its cancelation and a stay of execution.
“As a requirement of freedom of worship, which is secured by the constitution and related regulations, in the case of the Friday prayer hour coinciding with working hours, permission is given to servants at public institutions and organizations who demand it,” said the circular signed by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, the former president of the Judges and Prosecutors Union (YARSAV), filed a complaint to the Council of State about the arrangement as early as Jan. 8.
The circular cannot be assumed “valid” with an understanding suggesting that “every issue on which there is no restraint is free by mentioning that no restraint is outlined in the regulations for working hours within the context of freedom of faith,” Eminağaoğlu said in his petition.
“Such reasoning and understanding will lead to a situation where daily working hours will be switched during the month of Ramadan,” he said, expressing concern that such a practice will gradually pave the way for a discussion which could lead to a change in the country’s calendar system, holidays and work-week.
Eminağaoğlu also argued that the circular was subject to the articles of Law No. 2820 on Political Parties, which concerns restrictions on the activities of political parties in regards to activities conducted to the detriment of the secular nature of the state, and asked for referral of the matter to the Chief Prosecutor’s Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Friday mosque prayers are obligatory for devout Muslim males. Unlike several other mainly Muslim countries in the Middle East, officially Turkey uses the standard Monday-Friday working week employed in the West.
“We are working on a regulation that will allow Friday lunch breaks to be used in a way that will not hinder the freedom of worship,” Davutoğlu had told lawmakers of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Jan. 5.
“We all remember how we have gone to prayers in a rush, although it should actually be done in serenity, calm and with a heart at ease. We all remember how we have sometimes asked imams, ‘Please keep the sermon short so students and workers can return to work,’” Davutoğlu also said. “On Fridays, an environment like a holiday celebration, which will further contribute to our fraternity across Turkey, will occur,” he added.