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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Imams in Turkey Live under Regime's Tyranny, Fear Layoffs from Their Jobs


7Dnews London - Ahmed Fathi

Sun, 18 Aug 2019 05:10 GMT

France banned its mosques from bringing in more Turkish imams nearly two years ago, while Germany began to impose restrictions on them and monitor them, and Austria has begun prosecuting imams who are financially supported by Turkey.

Imams in Turkey suffer greatly from the authoritarian rule of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which threatens to fire them if they do not abide by the teachings of the party, even at the expense of the teachings of the religion itself, DW reported.

According to the Turkish opposition, the Presidency of Religious Affairs in the country, known as Diyanet, is a "politicized" state in favour of conservative Islamists.

Turkey is counting on its mosques in Europe to influence Muslims there and broadcast its political rhetoric loyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is known for his radical and ostracized ideas, which is well known to the intelligence services in those countries, Turkish news portal Ahval said.

According to an investigation made by DW, imams in Turkey are required to not only abide by the teachings of the religion, but also with the teachings Diyanet, which has an important role in evaluating their work as well, such as issuing directives regulating prayer, preaching, and worship. Violation of these directives entails severe punishment, and often dismissal, DW said.

Diyanet did not wish to disclose the number of laid-off imams under various arguments.

In March, Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for clandestine imams who said they had infiltrated the naval command for Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the regime accuses of masterminding the alleged coup attempt in June 2016.

One example of the suffering of Turkish imams and their fall under the whips of the ruling party is that of Imam Abdullah, 35, who entered into a dispute with the mufti of his region after the latter issued a fatwa saying that a woman may not go to the supermarket without the escort of one of her guardians.

After opposing the fatwa, the events accelerated and Abdullah was dismissed from his job without warning on the pretext of "violating the directives."

“My opposition was based on freedom of opinion. All I did was doing my job of teaching people to use their minds. I thought there was freedom of opinion in this country," Abdullah told DW.

In another example, in the south-eastern Anatolia region, an imam was laid off after a quarter century of service. He was charged with membership in a union, which the authorities say is linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), DW reported.

The 46-year-old imam was suspended by a special decree based on the state of emergency. This happened in 2015, after the outlawed party occupied several villages in the region and engaged in confrontations with the Turkish authorities.

Before local elections on March 31st, Imam Zakaria Bellada received an invitation from the conservative National Good Party to lead the prayer.

The mufti, who is close to the AKP, ordered replacing him with another imam, on the pretext that he had prayed for people close to the Gulen movement. The mufti based his decision on a legal article stating that "clerics may not criticise or praise the opinion or position of political parties."

Bellada was surprised by the decision, as the imams who prayed for the AKP's candidate to win the Istanbul election are still in their jobs.

Although the AKP has dominated all aspects of life in Turkey, many political analysts now see a near end to political Islam in the country as the party begins to crack and some of its leading members split to form new parties.

Middle East