Relaymedia

Turkey Islam: Prime Minister Issues Secular Pledge in New Constitution While Guaranteeing Religious Freedom

( [email protected] ) May 04, 2016 01:30 PM EDT
Turkish lawmakers are not in accord with a new Constitution whether it adopts secularism or restore the role of religion in public life, which before was the governing mandate in Turkey until it was overturned in 1920.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at a news conference after visiting the refugee camp in Nizip. Reuters Photo

Turkish lawmakers are not in accord with a new Constitution whether it adopts secularism or restore the role of religion in public life, which before was the governing mandate in Turkey until it was overturned in 1920.

Christians represent 0.2 percent of Turkey's total population with 236 Churches spilling in provinces for service and worships.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu wants the stay of secularism as a principle in the new Charter, but Speaker Ismail Kahraman sees otherwise. He perceived the role of religion in the society as more fitting.

In a speech on Wednesday, Davutoglu said: "Secularism will feature in the new constitution we draft as a principle that guarantees citizens' freedom of religion and faith and that ensures the state is an equal distance from all faith groups." 

His view drew public uproar and was considered at odds with the founding principles of the modern republic. Amid the animosity, Kahraman made a twist saying the new charter should guarantee religious freedom.

The swift reactions marked by street protest highlighted schism in Turkish society way back in the 1920s when the Republic turned to secularism.

Davutoglu told his ruling AK Party in a speech that the principle of secularism is guaranteed in the new Charter to ensure freedom of religion, and the state's equal distance to all pious with its focus is the executive presidential system.

He said secularism as opposed to an authoritarian should be the prevailing context. Reference of the Charter as religion, Allah or Islam was out of the talk.