— The Erimtan Angle —

Mehmet bey

As I have written quite some time ago, when “the Turkish state abolished the Caliphate and the Ministry of Pious Endowments in 1924, the Turkish Republic [started] regulat[ing] its citizens’ religious life through the Religious Affairs Directorate, or Diyanet, a branch of government attached to the office of the prime minister”.[1] And currently, the Directorate is run by Mehmet Görmez, who took over the job from Ali Bardakoğlu on 11 November 2010, after the latter had “publicly called for the establishment of an independent religious authority in Turkey in an interview he gave to the self-avowed atheist Ahmet İnsel of daily Radikal (Oct. 23-24, 2010)”.[2] Since then, Görmez has basically been acting like the AKP’s very own Şeyhülislâm (or Grand Mufti, if you will), publishing edicts left and right to do with a whole host of social and sexual issues, while being driven around in a controversial Mercedes, courtesy of the Prez himself, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.


Being the AKP’s Grand Mufti, Görmez also made sure that his Diyanet also disposed of a virtual presence on the interwebz. A decision that has led to quite a bit of controversy: the “newspaper Birgun shared a screen grab of a Diyanet Q&A in which an anonymous visitor to the interactive site had posed the question, ‘Would my marriage be void if I lust for my own daughter?’ The Quran (4:23) prohibits incest, as does Turkish law, making the answer of an unidentified ulama [actually âlim as the former is the plural form] (religious scholar) to this question all the more shocking. He stated, ‘There is a difference of opinion on the matter among Islam’s different schools of thought. For some, a father kissing his daughter with lust or caressing her with desire has no effect on the man’s marriage.’ He went on to assert that according to the Hanafi school of Islamic thought, the mother would be ‘forbidden’ to such a man. After elaborating in graphic and disturbing detail about girls’ attire, he suggested, ‘The girl should be over nine years of age.’ He also referred to writings by particular religious scholars and gave a concluding explanation about differences in sexual arousal between males and females. Although the religious ruling, or fatwa, appeared on Diyanet’s own website for all to read, the directorate appeared to be more upset at the press for publicizing it and the people who shared it on social media. The reactions by those trying to defend Diyanet were as mind-boggling as the fatwa itself, which was removed from the website Jan. 8 [2016] . . . [while] on Jan. 4 [the Turkish press] reported that [the] Diyanet had declared marriage to Alevis impermissible. ‘According to Islam, a Muslim woman can only wed a Muslim man,’ [the] Diyanet responded to a question on the matter. A week later, on Jan. 10, [the] Diyanet was reported to have announced that anyone having an abortion should donate 5 camels or 221 grams of gold”, as recounted by Pinar Tremblay”.[3] The Research Associate at UCLA Tremblay goes on to detail the following spicy anecdote as well: “On Dec. 31, [2015,] the directorate made the news with its ‘engaged couples fatwa,’ warning that couples should not be left alone, nor should they hold hands, during their engagement. When Al-Monitor asked a prominent imam about the rationale behind the fatwa, he replied on the condition of anonymity, ‘We are under pressure from young couples and their parents to perform religious weddings [which are not legally binding]. Once they get the religious approval, if the marriage is consummated and the couple breaks up [before their civil ceremony], then the young women become victims.’ [The] Diyanet is well aware that the demand for religious marriage comes with a cost, and it is therefore trying to persuade couples to refrain from sex prior to officially being married in the eyes of the state”.[4]

AKP Şeyhülislâm

Now that the county is in the grip of presidential fever, the AKP Şeyhülislâm (or Grand Mufti) has taken it upon himself to spread the word, talking to the press and pontificating about a whole host of subjects: “During debates on the new constitution, [the] Diyanet should definitely be restructured. In my opinion, getting [the] Diyanet completely out of politics and turning it into an entirely autonomous institution has become an obligation . . . I believe that [for the Diyanet] to resume its presence as an autonomous institution in administrative, scientific and religious [terms] which has [a] public corporate identity and which can stand on its own feet but which is a constitutional institution will be useful . . . At the moment, looking at our region, religious services are a matter of security. In a world like this, the presence of [the] Diyanet, which fulfils its services in 85,000 mosques in Turkey five times a day and every Friday and conducts all other work, has gradually become more important. Five years later, it will become [even] more important. If we take [the] developments in the region into consideration, 10 years later, we will be in [greater] need of this institution as the country and as the geography. Taking all of these [developments] into consideration, I believe that it will be more useful to have the institution able to stand on its own feet and proceed on its way with a more uniting and more [comprehensive] mission by leaving aside suspicions, anxieties and fears. We want the [illegal] madrasas [effectively abolished in 1924] in the region to have a certain structure with its curriculum, exams and instructors in a legal environment where their inspection would be possible. We witness that otherwise these structures are being exploited by [the] terror organization [referring to the PKK]. This should also be [expressed] very clearly and transparently and should be pondered. It should not be understood as paving the way for a new institution alternative to formal education”.[5]


For one thing, Görmez seems to regard the existence of illegal institutions of religious learning in the South-East of the country as permissible. This in spite of the fact that the proclamation of the so-called Tevhid-i Tedrisat Kanunu or the Law on the Unification of Instruction on 3 March 1924 abolished religious instruction in madrasas (spelt as medrese, in Turkish) and made the issue of education the sole prerogative of the Maarif Vekaleti (Ministry of Education), later renamed the Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı).


[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] C. Erimtan, “Secularism, beer and bikinis”.

[3] Pinar Tremblay, ” Incest fatwa lands Turkish religious directorate in hot water” Al-Monitor (15 Jan 2016). http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/01/turkey-religious-affairs-directorate-fatwa.html#ixzz42OlhBqfY.

[4] Pinar Tremblay, ” Incest fatwa lands Turkish religious directorate in hot water”.

[5] “Turkey’s top cleric calls for autonomous religious directorate” Hürriyet Daily News (08 March 2016). http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-top-cleric-calls-for-autonomous-religious-directorate-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=96170&NewsCatID=393.


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