Disclosure of an alleged classified report by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) on religious communities has drawn a range of criticisms across the political spectrum.
On March 9, Ahmet Nesin, a Turkish journalist in exile, wrote on Arti Gercek news portal about a 226-page report that scrutinizes the influence of religious communities on Turkish citizens.
However, according to him the language of the Diyanet report is more like that of an intelligence report crafted by Turkey’s Secret Service (MIT) rather a religious report by Diyanet.
The Diyanet report allegedly examines various religious communities that operate in the fields of education, charity, and commerce, and concludes that: “The essential part that shall be taken by the Directorate of Religious Affairs and Faculties of Theology is raising public awareness against such entities.”
The report carries on, saying: “It is imperative to control these bodies (religious communities) in our country by preparing legal grounds to inspect the financial and safety aspects as well as to oversee them via the Directorate on religious matters.”
The secularist-leaning news portal Oda TV published a news story on the leaked report, denouncing it as an attempt to undermine the separation of religion and state by legitimizing the religious communities outlawed by the country’s founding father, Kemal Ataturk.
However, some religious communities viewed the report in a different light, deeming it as “a bid to take full control of the civil movements by the state.”
Ebubekir Sifil, a theologian who is revered by many in Turkey as a religious mentor, labeled the report as an “act of profiling,” over its explicit content focusing on religious communities.
The preface of the leaked document reportedly explains its raison d’etre as the necessity to tackle the threats directed by religious communities that arose after the failed 2016 coup, for which the Ankara blames the faith-based Gulen movement.
Kazim Gulecyuz, the editor of the critical Yeni Asya daily that promotes the ideas of the Muslim cleric Said Nursi, slammed the report for pointing to religious communities as a target from his Twitter account.
Erdogan’s alliance with nationalist seculars
Nesin ended his article on the document by quoting the chair of the Patriotic Party, Dogu Perincek, a staunchly secular anti-Western political figure.
Perincek repeatedly explained his alliance with President Tayyip Erdogan by suggesting that Erdogan’s political views shifted to resemble theirs, describing him as an Islamic Kemalist.
“Some speeches of Perincek occurred to me after reading the report. Perincek: ‘We will eradicate the religious orders and communities.'” noted Nesin.