A religious constitution for Turkey?

The speaker of Turkey's parliament İsmail Kahraman has sparked a heated debate in his country by calling for a religious rather than a secular constitution. Is Turkey on its way to becoming a Sharia state?

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Népszabadság (HU) /

Authoritarian systems need religion

Népszabadság points out that there are other countries apart from Turkey where there are campaigns to give religion a bigger role in the state:

“In the countries of the former East Bloc the Churches have regained their former status and authority over the last 20 years. In Russia for example the Orthodox Church ranks once more as a state church. In this part of the world the different faiths have gained considerable clout. … The more authoritarian a system is, the more it depends on the support of the Church. Viktor Orbán said not long ago that our [Christian-based] constitution protects us from 'Islamisation'. In Poland, in turn, a total ban on abortion is to be introduced as a result of pressure from the clergy. … Today's Islamic and Christian constitutions have less to do with tradition and values than with the withdrawal of religious freedom.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Turkish secularism is non-negotiable

At least Kahraman’s call prompted Prime Minister Davutoğlu and President Erdoğan to stress that secularism will not be abolished, comments the liberal Hürriyet Daily News:

“What he has said is only a shrouded way of saying that the Turkish constitution should be based on the Islamic sharia. There is no doubt that an element of the population would support him in this, but it is obvious that there is a much larger element who would oppose him. Calls similar to Kahraman’s have resulted in serious social strife, if not civil war, in many countries. ... The positive side to his remark is that it has forced Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to come out and support secularism with reassurances that any new constitution will retain all references to it. ... We have to perhaps thank Kahraman, therefore, for bringing up the matter in such a stark manner that it galvanized support for secularism, rather than increasing support for his obviously highly skewed political outlook.”

Yeni Şafak (TR) /

Freedom of expression doesn't apply for the religious

The Turkish opposition's harsh reaction to the parliamentary speaker's call for a religious constitution came mainly via the social media. The opposition doesn't want to allow an open debate about the role of religion in the constitution, the pro-government Islamic conservative paper Yeni Şafak suspects:

“We have gone through two days of words full of threats. This has reminded us of how difficult it was to be religious in this country just ten to fifteen years ago. And of how, when it comes to religion, freedom of expression is curtailed in the name of secularism. … With this campaign, which is turning into a witch-hunt, we have sadly missed the opportunity to conduct a lively and productive debate about what kind of constitution we should have.”

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