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  Turkey Speaker seeks religious statute

Turkey Speaker seeks religious statute

Published : Apr 27, 2016, 6:52 am IST
Updated : Apr 27, 2016, 6:52 am IST

Police fires teargas at pro-secular protesters

Police fires teargas at pro-secular protesters

Turkey should have a religious Constitution, Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman said on Monday, in comments that will likely add to concerns of creeping Islamisation under the ruling AKP party.

“As a Muslim country, why should we be in a situation where we are in retreat from religion ” state-run news agency Anatolia quoted him as saying.

“We are a Muslim country. As a consequence, we must have a religious Constitution,” he told a conference in Istanbul.

“Secularism cannot feature in the new Constitution.”

Critics accuse President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted AKP of eroding the secular values laid by modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk since it took power in 2002.

The police on Tuesday fired teargas to disperse demonstrators who had gathered outside Parliament to protest a call for the country to adopt a religious Constitution.

The police broke up a group of more than 100 protesters, preventing them from making a press declaration outside the Parliament in Ankara, an AFP photographer reported.

The group chanted the slogan “Turkey will remain secular”.

Several protesters were detained by the police, the photographer reported. Similar protests were also expected in other cities.

The head of Parliament’s Constitution commission, AKP member Mustafa Sentop, said no discussions were under way to remove secularism from the Constitution.

The Speaker was “not speaking on behalf of his party,” he said.

The leader of Turkey’s main Opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, said a secular Constitution was essential to guarantee freedom of religion.

“Secularism is a guarantor of all faiths. It means freedom of religion and conscience.”

“Look at the Middle East. You still haven’t learnt the lesson,” he said in comments addressed to Mr Kahraman.

“Secularism also means religion not being exploited politically,” he said.

“The chaos that reigns in the Middle East is the product of ways of thinking that, like you, make religion an instrument of politics,” Mr Kilicdaroglu wrote on Twitter.

“Secularism exists so everyone can practise their religion freely, Mr Kahraman!.”

The Speaker’s comments were booed by MPs from the CHP, the party founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who transformed the former Ottoman Empire into a secular nation-state, separating Islamic law from secular law.

Since the AKP’s re-election in November, the government has said it wants to revamp Turkey’s 1982 Constitution, drafted by the military junta which took power after a 1980 coup.

Several attempts so far have fallen flat — with Opposition parties rejecting a move which would give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers.

Over the past two years, the government has lifted bans on women and girls wearing the Islamic headscarf in schools and civil service. It has also limited alcohol sales and made efforts to ban mixed-sex dorms at state universities.

Location: Turkey, Istanbul