Turkish prime minister says critics are right on 'one religion' remark

Turkish prime minister says critics are right on 'one religion' remark

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkish prime minister says critics are right on one religion remark

Those who criticized me for one religion remarks are right, PM Erdoğan admits. DAILY NEWS photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has retracted his much-criticized description of “one religion” as an indispensible principle for Turkey, saying those who criticized him on the issue were right.

“It was a slip of the tongue and the criticism is justified,” Erdoğan said late Tuesday as he arrived from a trip to Italy and Slovenia, marking a rare situation in which he thoughr the critics were right. “I said ‘one religion’ instead of ‘one homeland.’ One should not draw different conclusions from that remark. I’m correcting it now,” he added. 

Erdoğan made the controversial remarks in two separate speeches ove the weekend as part of comments on the Kurdish conflict, sparking doubts over his commitment to a secular Turkey.

Addressing the Kurds, he said he had never advocated one language for Turkey but “one state, one flag and one religion.”

In further remarks, Erdoğan called on Turkey’s army gemerals to sue columnist Bekir Coşkun over a controversial article in which he likened the soldiers to tamed dogs as he stands in firm support of the army in its recent row with critics. 

“That person [Coşkun] is unfortunately dripping filth from his pen. In my opinion, the generals should defend their rights on legal ground. They have been insulted,” Erdoğan said.

Coşkun, a columnist for daily Cumhuriyet and an avowed government opponent, wrote a controversial article last month which was widely seen as one of the reasons prompting the General Staff to issue a harsh statement condemning “provocations” targeting the army. Coşkun wrote an imaginary dialogue between a wolf and a tamed dog called “Pasha” – a popular dog name and the Ottoman-era word for general. In his article, the chubby Pasha boasts about his comfortable life in the hut, but says that one must accept to wear a leash and obey their owner in return for the bones and cushions. 

Erdoğan had denounced the article as the reflection of fury among opponents over the military’s failure to carry out a coup against the government. 

“Such insults should not be tolerated by the people who occupy those ranks. They must not be left unanswered. The response they [the General Staff] gave was actually quite polite,” Erdoğan said, arguing that the use of the word “pasha” evoked even Atatürk. He lashed out also at main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who had criticized Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel for intolerance to criticism and urged him to “know their place.”

In contrast to Erdoğan, the deputy chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hüseyin Çelik, said yesterday that “the military must not make statements, no matter what the issue is.” He criticized the General Staff over another statement made last week which denounced a campaign by non-commissioned officers for the improvement of their rights, adding that the General Staff should resort to the courts if it felt insulted. “The era of directly addressing certain citizens is over. The General Staff may of course make statements to release information, but making a statement for non-commissioned officers who are asking for improvement of their rights is not nice,” he said.