The head of the Turkish Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) Ali Erbas is known for his conservative interpretation of Islam and views that for many Turks are no longer up to date. The fact that Airbus blamed homosexuals and those who decided to divorce for the COVID-19 pandemic was just one of his dubious statements that caused a flurry of criticism. Nevertheless, since 2017, Airbus, as the main Islamic authority, has played an increasing role in Turkish society.
His loudest performance was the opening ceremony of the mosque in Hagia Sophia in July 2020, which he hosted. During his Friday sermon, Airbus carried his sword. The gesture, which is based on the Ottoman tradition, outraged part of the society. Many saw this as a deliberate departure from the republican heritage of Turkey.
Quran Study Courses for Preschool Children
Since then, Erban has become the most important voice of the country’s conservative forces. Now the Department of Religious Affairs under his leadership requires that children aged 4 to 6 attend compulsory courses in the study of the Koran before school.
Airbus at the opening ceremony of the mosque
To achieve this goal, negotiations are underway with the Ministries of Education and Science. Meanwhile, many were critical of this idea, despite the fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps repeating that he wants to see the future generation more religious, brought up on Islamic-conservative values.
Airbus’s agency is also trying to intervene in the digital world: in a publication titled Social Media Ethics, the Religious Affairs Office advocates regulating social media using Islamic structures acting as judges, and using them to punish misconduct if the law does not provide for this. The Turkish leadership is currently trying to increase its influence on the Internet.
“Islam should be in every area”
Two weeks ago, Airbus, along with Erdogan, opened the annual ceremony for judges in Turkey. For the first time in the history of the country, it was accompanied by a prayer delivered by the head of the department for religious affairs.
Ali Erbas and Recep Tayyip Erdogan
For the opposition and liberal forces, the agency’s growing influence is a signal that the principle of separating religion from the state in Turkey is beginning to erode. But Airbus only supports the strengthening of the role of his department: “Why shouldn’t religion be a visible part of society?” He advocates for Islam to be present in every area of society, including justice.
“The War on Secularism in Turkey”
Journalist Burchu Caracas, who studies the activities of the Department of Religious Affairs, observes this trend with concern: “The words of Airbus show that the state wants to regulate the public sphere with the help of religion. much broader. The government is waging a war against secularism and is using this organization as a tool in it. “
Significant growth in the budget of this organization is also a sign of the growing influence of the Office of Religious Affairs. In 2021, it is 12.9 billion lira, while 10 years ago – only 3 billion. Against this background, Airbus’s powers were extended, and on October 8 he was re-appointed as head of the organization.