Turkish PM rules out removing secularism from constitution

Turkish PM rules out removing secularism from constitution

Turkish PM rules out removing secularism from constitution

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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has ruled out any considerations of removing secularism from the constitution following Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman’s remarks on the issue.

“The state’s characteristics are not an issue of debate for us. The principle of secularism will stay in the new constitution,” Davutoğlu said in a party meeting on April 27. 

Davutoglu also said the government would seek a “liberal interpretation” of secularism, as opposed to an “authoritarian” one.

Kahraman sparked outrage late on April 25 by suggesting that the principle of secularism “must be removed” from Turkey’s constitution, as even members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) voiced disagreement. 

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told a group of journalists in the Croatian capital of Zagreb that Kahraman’s opinions were his own. 

“You cannot possibly lock the mouth of the Speaker of Parliament. This person has spent all his life in politics. There is an ongoing constitution debate and he has expressed his views. You either like it or you don’t, this is different,” he said. 

“My thoughts have been known since the day I founded the AK Party [AKP]. My thoughts about secularism are recorded in the AK Party program. Besides, İsmail Kahraman has been elected as the speaker of parliament as a member of the AK Party. This shows that he has accepted what has been stated in the AK Party program before being elected to this post. What has he done? In a scientific meeting concerning the new constitution, he has shared his personal views by citing some examples from the world. I expressed my view on this matter in Cairo, Egypt, in my speech at the giant opera building there. I explained that secularism is an assurance of the state for different belief groups; it is the obligation to stay at an equal distance to different belief groups,” Erdoğan said.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş also said trying to create a political debate using Kahraman’s remarks was wrong and that the speaker stated his own opinions, not the AKP’s.   

“We as the AKP carry out our constitutional work both within the party and within the cabinet meeting and at joint commissions. Turkey needs a new constitution,” said Kurtulmuş, adding that it was “normal” to discuss various issues in the drafting process.   

Kurtulmuş reiterated that the during the work, a discussion about secularism did not emerge.