— The Erimtan Angle —

On Sunday, 12 January, the Islamic world celebrated the Prophet’s birthday (known as Mevlid Kandili in Turkish) and in Turkey this meant that mosques were working overtime. In Turkey, religious institutions, including such physical objects like places of worship, are under direct state control. As I have written somewhere else, “ever since the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic has regulated its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister”.[1]  As for this year’s Mevlid Kandili, the current Head of Religious Affairs Prof. Dr. Mehmet Görmez issued a message on the occasion: “May the birth anniversary of our Prophet bring tranquillity to our country, to the geography of our hearts and to all humanity . . . we are living through days when humanity is undergoing some serious tests. The problems being experienced at the local, regional and global level [are] creating from time to time serious concern in our minds that humanity is facing the threat of gradual death. Expressly those who are the followers of the Prophet are displaying carelessness, negligence and repulsiveness towards each other and today this has become a heavy burden on Muslims [, as this is a situation] which is creating [a] deep pain [in the international psyche]”.[2]

On Monday, 13 January then, the Turkish news agency Anadolu Ajansı reports that ‘Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs has organized an Umrah visit to Mecca for elementary and high school students during the semester break. The Directorate will take a total of 10,461 people on the Umrah trip, 2,533 of whom will be students’.[3]  And, as the good folks of Wikipedia inform, “Umrah” ‘is a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims that can be undertaken at any time of the year. In Arabic, Umrah means “to visit a populated place”’.[4]  The AA report then continues that the ‘rest [of the people going to the Holy Cities for an Umrah outing] will be made up of family members and teachers. Ergün Yücel, the head of the Hajj and Umrah Services branch of the directorate, said interest in the trip was growing and had led to an increase in the quota. “We were planning to send 5,000 people, including teachers, students and their families. But after we announced the trip, the quota was filled in a very short time. As a result, we increased the quota by a further 5,000. And this quota is full now, too,” Yücel said. The visit is planned as a 10-day trip with five days in Mecca and five days in Medina [, arguably as an additional bonus transcending the bounds of an ordinary Umrah outing]’.[5]

The AA report ends by indicating that ‘[g]roups will start departing between Jan. 24 and 28, and the returns will be completed on Feb. 4. Each person will pay 760 euros for the trip. The students, aged between 13 and 27, will stay in three-person rooms, Yücel said. “This is a big operation. We want to help students visit sacred lands with their families, as there is a great demand for this,” he added. The project is in its third year and numbers are doubling every year, according to Yücel, who said it started with 2,600 people in 2012, rising to 5,500 in 2013, and over 10,000 this year’.[6]


[1] C. Erimtan, “Secularism, beer and bikinis” Hürriyet Daily News (10 March 2011). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=secularism-beer-and-bikinis-2011-03-09.

[2] “Our Prophet is the only example for Muslims at all times and in every century…” Diyanet (s.d.). http://www.diyanet.gov.tr/tr/icerik/“our-prophet-is-the-only-example-for-muslims-at-all-times-and-in-every-century…/12625?getEnglish=True.

[3] “Top religious body to send kids on Umrah” AA (13 Jan 2014). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/Default.aspx?pageID=238&nID=60939&NewsCatID=341.

[4] “Umrah” Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrah.

[5] “Top religious body to send kids on Umrah” AA (13 Jan 2014).

[6] “Top religious body to send kids on Umrah” AA (13 Jan 2014).

Comments on: "Birthday Celebrations, Pious School Children and State-Sponsored Pilgrimage" (1)

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