August 7, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8882

Turkey's Religious Affairs Ministry, Authority Over Hagia Sophia Mosque And 2,000 Mosques Around The World, Part II – Statements On Women, Children: Girls Are Permitted To Marry, Become Pregnant At Age Nine; If 'A Father Lustfully Kisses His Daughter Or Lustfully Hugs Her, The Mother... Becomes Forbidden' To Him; 'If He Beats You... Say: "I Will Do Whatever You Like"'

August 7, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8882

In a July 10, 2020 decree, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan converted the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque and placed it under the authority of the country's Ministry of Religious Affairs.[1]Turkey's Ministry of Religious Affairs, colloquially and in this report referred to as the Diyanet, an abbreviation of its Turkish name Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, was founded in 1924 as a successor to the office of the Ottoman Sheikh Al-Islam.[2] In Turkey, the Diyanet runs 89,259 mosques and 22,758 Quran schools.[3] It runs another 2,000 mosques abroad[4] in countries including the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, and Norway.

This is a four-part series on Diyanet activity in Turkey and Europe as reported by Turkish-language sources. The following Table of Contents shows the subjects to be included in each part: 

Part I – Turkish Press Reports On Ministry's Jihad Connections, Corruption

  • Personnel And Budget

  • Publications And Broadcasting Apparatus

  • Organizational Structure

  • Corruption

  • Jihadi Connections In Turkey

  • Messaging Concerning Jihad, Martyrdom, And Hijra ("Migration" i.e., To The Islamic State) On Main Website And European Branch Websites

Part II – Statements On Women, Children: Girls Are Permitted To Marry, Become Pregnant At Age Nine; If 'A Father Lustfully Kisses His Daughter Or Lustfully Hugs Her, The Mother... Becomes Forbidden' To Him; 'If He Beats You... Say: "I Will Do Whatever You Like"'

  • Diyanet Resources Being Used To Promote AKP And Its Policies

  • On Children

  • On Women

Part III – Statements And Actions On Religious Minorities, Secularism, Homosexuality, And Alcohol

  • On Religious Minorities In Turkey

  • On Secularism

  • On Alcohol

  • On Education, Homosexuality, And New Years' Celebrations

Part IV – Police Investigate Jihad Sermon In The Netherlands; Many Ministry Magazine Articles Complain Of Charlie Hebdo 'Insults' While Remaining Silent On Attack

  • Diyanet Offices Abroad

  • Diyanet In Germany

  • Diyanet In Netherlands

  • Diyanet In France

  • Diyanet In Switzerland

  • Diyanet In Austria

  • Diyanet In Denmark

  • Diyanet In Belgium And Norway

  • Diyanet In U.S., U.K., Australia, And Canada

  • Diyanet In Iran And Pakistan

The Diyanet emblem

Part II – Statements On Women, Children: Girls Are Permitted To Marry, Become Pregnant At Age Nine; If 'A Father Lustfully Kisses His Daughter Or Lustfully Hugs Her, The Mother... Becomes Forbidden' To Him; 'If He Beats You... Say: "I Will Do Whatever You Like"'

Diyanet resources have reportedly been used to promote the AKP and its policies, including military policy. The Diyanet ordered that Chapter 48 of the Quran, titled Al-Fath ("The Conquest"), be recited and prayers be offered for the success of Turkey's recent major military operations, including the invasion of Idlib in February 2020, the invasion of northeast Syria in October 2019, and the invasion of Afrin in 2018. Support for these military operations at Diyanet mosques in Europe has caused controversy there.

The Diyanet website once indicated that it was permissible for girls to be married and become pregnant at the age of nine.[5] A Diyanet fatwa read: "According to Hanafis, in the event that a father lustfully kisses his daughter or lustfully hugs her, the mother of the daughter becomes haram [forbidden] to the father."[6] An illustration in a children's magazine published by the Diyanet showed a father explaining the rewards of martyrdom to his son. A journalist, posing as a woman who feared her husband would beat her, called a provincial Mufti's office run by the Diyanet asking for advice. The person on the line told her: "If he beats you, do not react, get away from there, go to your room, try to cover up the event by saying: 'I will do whatever you like.'" She was told not to call the police in the event that her husband beat her.

Diyanet Resources Being Used To Promote AKP And Its Policies

Many Turkish journalists have written about the close relationship between the Diyanet and President Erdoğan's AKP. Amid a controversy over a Diyanet sermon condemning homosexuality and fornication, journalist Enver Aysever wrote: "The AKP, as a political Islamist party, is certainly using the Diyanet. Particularly in the period of [Diyanet Minister Ali] Erbaş, this position has come out into the open. Erbaş is shaping society with his fatwas." Another journalist wrote that one of the ways in which the state uses the Diyanet is to polarize society and inflame politics, such as by using statements about LGBT people.[8] Another journalist wrote on June 21, 2020: "The Diyanet... is seeking, through its fatwas that refer to shari'a, to gain legitimacy for the government's illegal actions."[9]

Turkish theologian İhsan Eliaçık, partially in response to a Diyanet sermon mentioning jihad in the aftermath of the start of a February 2020 Turkish military operation in Idlib, said that the Diyanet seeks to legitimize the activities of the state, and that "after every decision the state makes, the Diyanet comes out with a fatwa saying 'this is permissible.'"[10] However, Erk Acarer, a notable Turkish journalist, took the point further, writing: "To say that the Diyanet butters the AKP's bread by changing the agenda is to simplify the situation and fail to see the background. We are up against a much harder and more difficult picture. The Diyanet is a component of the government that does not give up on favoring the Muslim Brotherhood and which counts favoring the ummah among the regime's main characteristics."[11]

There are many reports of the resources of Turkish mosques, which are under the authority of the Diyanet, being used for AKP messaging. These include AKP candidates hosting breakfasts in mosques to win votes, AKP MPs giving speeches in mosques, and the use of the mosque's electricity to power AKP promotional stands.[12] However, when Ozan Arif, a vocal critic of the MHP, which is in a coalition with the AKP, died, and his supporters asked for prayers to be recited in his honor in Aksaray, the mufti's office did not give permission because of the "election law."[13] The Diyanet said in 2015 that "doing AKP propaganda in mosques is a sin."[14] However, such activities were reported as recently as 2019.

The Diyanet has also given sermons and religious services that promote Turkish military policy. At morning prayer on February 28, 2020 at the roughly 89,000 mosques across Turkey, the Diyanet had Chapter 48 of the Quran, titled Al-Fath ("The Conquest"), recited and prayers offered for the success of Operation Spring Shield, a Turkish military operation in Syria's Idlib province that began on February 27.[15] This chapter of the Quran was also recited on behalf of Turkey's October 2019 invasion of northeast Syria[16] and its 2018 invasion of Afrin.[17] Such support for Turkish military operations in Diyanet mosques in Europe has caused controversy. The Diyanet sermon distributed to every mosque in Turkey and presumably to the 2,000 Diyanet mosques abroad on February 28, the day after the Idlib operation began, read in part: "Our troops say: 'Halt' to the enemy's brazen invasion by obeying the spiritual call of our Prophet, who said: 'Make jihad with your hands, your tongues, and your property.'" The sermon also quoted a 1922 poem by Turkish poet Yahya Kemal: "This storm breaking out is the Turkish army, oh Lord. The army that dies for your sake is this one, oh Lord. May your powerful name be raised up with the calls to prayer, make [us] the victor, because this is the last army of Islam!"[18] One news outlet reported this under the headline: "In its Friday sermon, the Diyanet declares jihad in Idlib."[19] Diyanet Minister Erbaş himself has said in a speech reported on February 16, 2020, that the Diyanet has given seminars to military officers, military cadets, and police officers.[20] Erbaş also said a prayer at the opening of the new MİT headquarters, reported on January 6, 2020.[21]

Diyanet Minister Ali Erbaş visiting the Hakkari Special Operations Police branch in March 2018, amid the Turkish military's invasion of Afrin, Syria.[22]

On June 13, 2020, it was reported that Diyanet Minister Ali Erbaş had said at an online event organized by the Association of Palestinian Scholars Abroad[23] that President Erdoğan always defended the cause of Jerusalem loudly and clearly at international meetings and said: "It should be known that our struggle will continue until Jerusalem is completely free."[24]

The Diyanet has also been hostile to opposition parties and their representatives. An imam in the Seydikemer district of Muğla province, who is by definition a Diyanet employee, shared a post on social media that read: "They asked the devil, why don't you visit Turkey? He said: The last time I visited, the CHP supporters were annoyed at the call to prayer and whistled. As long as the CHP is there, I do not need to visit Turkey."[25] Mahmut Tanal, an MP representing the CHP, Turkey's main opposition party, for Istanbul, also shared a photo of a book titled "The Cruelty Of The CHP," kept in the library of the tea room of the Sarı Mosque in the Yıldırım district of Bursa province. Tanal wrote: "Mosques should not be an area of political propagada. It is not right to polarize and otherize in order to maintain the continuation of political power in the mosques where people who believe the same faith and turn toward the same Qibla [i.e., direction of prayer]."[26]

In 2019 there were many reports about Turks committing suicide, often due to desperate economic conditions. The Diyanet issued a sermon amid these reports, saying: "It is predestined for all of us to have difficulties, suffering and grief, material and spiritual problems. This world is, as the name implies, 'the world of trial.' The messenger of Allah experienced much more than the trials that we struggle to overcome." Turkey's Atheism Association, whose website says it is the first such association in the Middle East, responded to this sermon, saying: "Advising people to remain silent in the face of injustices by using their religious sensitivities, recommending that they live not for this world but for the 'other' world, and sticking in words like 'mercy, steadiness, and patience, that express virtue, are intended not to solve their rightful rebellions, but to oppress them. As the Atheism Association, we condemn those who try to pass off the difficult times our country is going through with these cheap verbal acrobatics."[27]

President Erdoğan also returns the support he receives from the Diyanet. Amid one recent controversy, President Erdoğan gave full support to Diyanet Minister Erbaş and the Diyanet, saying in a speech reported on April 27, 2020: "If there is someone, some institute in our country who needs to speak on behalf of Islam, it is the Diyanet and the Religious Affairs High Council... An attack on our Diyanet minister is an attack on the state."[28] One journalist emphasized the importance of this statement, saying: "Erdoğan counted the criticism of the Diyanet as being against both Islam and against the state."[29]

On Children

The Diyanet's website said that it was permissible for girls to be married and become pregnant when the reach puberty, and that the minimum age for this for girls was nine, and for boys was 12.[30] The pages were later removed from the website and replaced with a statement that females could get married at age 17 and males at 18.[31] In Turkey in 2018, it was estimated that 483,00 female children were married and that the same year more than 11,000 of them gave birth, of whom 167 were younger than 15 years old.[32]

Diyanet pages saying it is permissible for girls to get married and become pregnant when they reach puberty, the minimum age for which it says is nine.

In January 2016, a user asked the Diyanet via one of its websites: "What is the affect on one's marriage of feeling lust when kissing one's daughter?", the Diyanet's official fatwa page, answered: "There is a difference of opinion over what happens to a marriage when the father feels lust when kissing his own daughter. According to some sects, for a father to lustfully kiss his daughter or lusfully hug her, it does not affect the marriage... According to Hanafis, in the event that a father lustfully kisses his daughter or lustfully hugs her, the mother of the daughter becomes haram [forbidden] to the father. But to reach such a conclusion, the holding must be such that skin touches skin, or that the covering is so thin that the heat below it is conveyed. Feeling lust while holding in a thick dress, or while looking at her body and thinking does not cause such a forbiddenness. Also the daughter must be more than nine years old. The sign of feeling lust is the awakening of the man's organ, or if it is awake, for its wakefulness to increase, and for the woman's heart to beat with excitement."[33]

A Diyanet fatwa that reads: "In the event that a father that the father lustfully kisses his daughter or lustfully hugs her, the mother of the daughter becomes haram [forbidden] to the father."

An entry on, ("Encylopedia of Islam") a website prepared by the TDV, said that it was not forbidden for someone to marry "a daughter from the former husband of the woman your son married." One Turkish news outlet announced this ruling in May 2020 with the headline: "Marrying Your Step-Granddaughter Is Halal [Permitted]!"[34] Other outlets mocked the ruling, pointing out that the Diyanet ruled that homosexual marriage was forbidden while such marriages were permitted.

On June 12, 2020, Hüda Kaya, an MP representing the opposition HDP, said, addressing another controversy about Diyanet statements over LGBT people, said: "The Diyanet does not represent me as a Muslim. It is not legitimate... If the Diyanet is going to do its work, if it is going to speak in the name of religion, it should talk about the thievery and the rape of children. It should defend the rights of the boys raped in the Quran schools. It should talk about the corruption and the people who were wrongfully slaughtered."[35] Others have opposed Diyanet statements and actions with protests and the use of the hashtag and slogan "#DiyanetKapatılsın [#ShutDownTheDiyanet]."[36]

A protester holds up a sign that reads "shut up, Diyanet."

The March 2016 issue of a children's magazine that the Diyanet publishes drew reactions for its praise of martyrdom. The magazine included an illustration that read: "May Allah be content with our martyrs, may their graves fill with light." It showed a father saying to his son: "How great it is to be a martyr!" The son asks: "Would anyone want to be a martyr, dad?" The father answers: "Of course they would, son. Who would not want to achieve paradise!" The issue included lines such as: "The one who is martyred will be so happy in paradise that they will want to be martyred ten times." And "I wish I too could be a martyr."

Turkish academic Dr. Serdar Değirmencioğlu, referring to ISIS attacks in Turkey and Europe, Değirmencioğlu said, as reported in a March 2016 article: "They want to spread the message of 'be a martyr' with pictures, which they think will be more attractive to children... While Turkey is drowning in pain from these massacres, the Diyanet is trying to spread the ISIS mentality. The Diyanet is trying to spread among children the same mentality, which has opened the way for the deaths of hundreds of people."[37]

In a cartoon in a Diyanet children's magazine, a father says to his son: "Of course they would [desire martyrdom], son. Who would not want to achieve paradise!"

On January 1, 2019, it was reported that a book titled "The Prophet And The Young," produced and distributed for free at a cost of millions of Turkish lira, told children that "it has been established that higher education in secular fields negatively effects religious belief and worship."[38]

Diyanet Minister Erbaş has said that Diyanet Quran schools are "regions protected from Satan."[39] While the Diyanet has started Quran schools for pre-schoolers age 4-6, some education researchers have warned that "the Diyanet's program is not suitable for four-year-old children."[40] Erbaş said, regarding the number of children that families should have: "We need to develop our population and make it solid in terms of quality and quantity by having three or four, certainly more than two."[41]

On Women

The Diyanet and its representatives have made many statements about women, regularly prompting protests from women's groups. In one case the Diyanet reportedly tried to keep a confessed rapist out of prison. İsmail Kaya, a former mufti for the Hazro district of Diyarbakır province, confessed to raping a woman whose initials are H.Y. and who was a teacher at a Quran school for girls, saying: "I obeyed Satan." The news website reported that there were claims that AKP MPs and Diyanet officials reportedly intervened, and that Diyanet officials threatened the victim, saying that they would dissolve her work contract if she did not withdraw her complaint. She did withdraw her complaint, the court ruled that "there was consent," and İsmail Kaya was set free.[42] The Diyanet fired the victim anyway as well as Kaya, who was re-arrested and sentenced six months later to 26 years in prison over the rape.[43]

The Diyanet runs 81 provincial mufti's offices and 326 district mufti's offices, from which the ministry provides, among other things, "family and religious guidance for the establishment, protection, and strengthening of the family." Turkish journalist Burcu Karakaş called some of these offices on the phone, asking for advice under the pretext of being a woman whose husband was beating her. Karakaş called the office of the mufti of Konya said that she was thinking of getting divorced because of the violence, and was told: "If it has become unbearable, consult with the elders [of the family]. Almighty Allah says in Surah Al-Nisa: Let the woman and man each try to overcome difficulties [by the help of] someone older than them. Young people jump to conclusions. We say that you should try to overcome the problem [with the help of] the elders in the family."

Women protest in 2016 with signs that read: "Women will call to account the Diyanet and AKP, which are anti-woman and reactionary!"[44]

Karakaş then called the office of the Mufti of Çorum and said: "He raised his hand, he has not hit me yet but I am worried." The preacher on the line told her: "In a suitable tone ask him why he is doing that. This is not a very big problem, you can solve it by talking. In the evening you can make something that he likes and speak calmly over tea." When she asked what she should do if her husband beats her, the preacher told her: "If he beats you, do not react, get away from there. Go to your room. Try to cover up the event by saying: 'I will do whatever you like.' But bring it up again at a suitable time. Do not speak with an accusing tone. 'I do not know how you want it. If I knew, I would do it that way,' can be said." When she asked whether it was necessary to call the police, the preacher told Karakaş: "No. You'll solve such matters, inshallah. Trust in Allah."[45] It was recently reported that these Family and Religious Guidance bureaus had received 66,625 questions over the seven years, or on average 26 questions per day, leading up to February 2020.[46]

İhsan Şenocak, a theologian for Diyanet, said in a sermon: "Does your heart shatter when your daughter walks down the street to school in pants?... What have you done to what was entrusted to you from Allah? You were happy when she got into a university... She will be a doctor, she will be an engineer... Okay, so you are happy about that. When your daughters walk with pants among the gazes of men, when young bucks are going after her, you've thrown your little one into hell." He was later relieved of his duties at the Diyanet.[47]

Women protest the Diyanet in mid-2018 with signs that read: "Women will prevail, not your anti-woman, anti-child fatwas."[48]

In August 2013, Dr. Halil İbrahim Karslı, a member of the Diyanet's Religious Affairs High Council, said that "a woman's body is a decoration" and for this reason she must cover it. Serap Güre of the Solidarity With Women Foundation (KADAV) replied: "Instead of women covering up, men should stop molesting [them]."[49] When asked whether forced marriages were valid, the Diyanet reported that there was a difference of opinion according to the sects. According to the Diyanet, while the Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali sects do not consider forced marriages valid, the Hanafi sect, which is the majority in Turkey, reportedly does.[50]

It was reported on October 26, 2017, that Dr. Mustafa Karataş was appointed as an undersecretary to the Diyanet. Karataş had said of a woman who had had a miscarriage because her husband beat her: "Do not exaggerate. You should be punished in this world before being going to the other world."[51] A Diyanet sermon said: "If any woman requests a divorce from her husband without a valid reason, the fragrance of paradise will be forbidden to her."[52] In 2008, the website of the Diyanet said that "Feminisim is immorality."[53] The Diyanet has issued fatwas and given sermons saying that it is a sin for unmarried couples to hold hands[54] and it is forbidden for unmarried men and women to shake hands.[55]

Women protest in early 2018 with signs that read: "You cannot legitimize rape!" and "What does the Diyanet want from women and children?"[56]

A woman working at the Diyanet said that she protected the rights of women to wear shorts and mini-skirts as well as the rights of members of the LGBT community "for the approval of Allah" and said that those groups need to be protected as much women who wear the headscarf. The Diyanet later made a statement that saying that her relationship with the Diyanet had been completely cut off because of her views.[57]

Journalist Mehmet Yılmaz wrote in a January 2020 article titled "The Diyanet Has Become The Foundational Institute of the State" that "recently, the Diyanet appears under any rock you overturn. For example, a protocol was put forward between the National Education Ministry and the Diyanet, according to which the muftiships would choose who would give the 'values education lessons' to pre-school and elementary school classes. One of these 'teachers' told children in Bolu that: 'The bread bought by a working woman is haram [forbidden]."[58]


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