Turkey’s Top Religious Official Backtracks on Critique of Izmir

Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan chats with Head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate Mehmet Gormez during the summit of religious leaders from Muslim countries and communities in Africa in Istanbul, Nov. 21, 2011. (photo by REUTERS/Murad Sezer)

When someone says something and then feels that it needs an explanation, it is a clear signal that something is wrong.

That is exactly what happened to Mehmet Gormez, Director of Religious Affairs. What he touched upon was something so sensitive that it mirrored all the arguments concerning what Turkish democracy really means if the state is controlling religious practices, and whether there is a way forward under an Islamist-oriented ruling party for people to also exercise the right of freedom from religion. In a free society after all, everyone should be free to choose how they reach God, or not.

“Izmir has a different kind of religiosity. This religiosity is in need of wisdom of the [religious] traditions,” Gormez said on Tuesday [March 26] when he addressed the members of his directorate in Izmir. “Therefore, it is no coincidence that a mufti raised by this [religious] tradition of wisdom is appointed to Izmir.”

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Categories: Al-Monitor