Politicization of Religious Affairs Directorate Causes Concern

04/03/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) –  Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diaynet) is increasingly becoming a tool of President Erdogan to restrict religious freedoms and target threats to the Turkish identity. Under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Diyanet’s budget has increased nearly 2,000 percent in the last 20 years.

The Diaynet, originally created to ensure proper separation of church and state and religious education, also directly works with the nation’s mosques by prepping sermons and appointing imams. However, what was once a means of ensuring educated teachers, now has become increasingly politicized.

Several theologians noted the politicization of the Friday sermons, encouraging young people to protect their country from traitors and listen to the authority of the state. The sermons, originating with the Diaynet, are not optional according to one theologian who said that if an imam refuses to give that sermon, that they are then fired from their job. The political rhetoric in mosques being pushed by the Turkish government only increases social division as Christians are either directly or indirectly identified as the enemy.

President of the Diaynet, Ali Erbas, commented saying that young people must be protected from ideologies conflicting with Islam. Erbas made other notable comments that accused non-Muslims and non-Muslim actions as cursed, condemned acts and committing a sin. Both Erbas and President Erdogan began blurring the lines between religion and politics. In 2018 President Erdogan compared the Diaynet, its staff and its imams to “members of the army”.