As the political messages of imams are being debated in Turkey, a call made by an imam in a mosque in Gaziantep during prayer hour created tension among the attendees, news website Yeniyön reported on Saturday.
According to a video shared on the website, an imam at the Cahit Nakıpoğlu Mosque calls on people to participate in a referendum campaign rally to be held by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the city on Sunday. One of the people who told the imam, “This is not the place for politics,” was taken outside the mosque by other participants while the imam is heard saying, “I do not engage in politics. We are siding with Muslims,” in the video.
President Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are pursuing an aggressive propaganda policy ahead of the referendum on April 16 on constitutional amendments that will open the way to a switch from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidency.
“April 16 will at the same time be an answer for July 15. It will be an important move against July 15. The position of naysayers is to take sides with July 15. Nobody should derive a different meaning from this,” said President Erdoğan last week while talking about the referendum.
In a previous statement, Erdoğan as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım accused the potential naysayers in the referendum of taking sides with terrorist organizations.
Imams of mosques have also been participating in the government campaign. An imam in İstanbul’s Ümraniye district accused naysayers of “treason” and “ignorance,” while an imam leading a group of Turks during Umrah in Mecca labeled naysayers as “infidels.”
Speaking during a live show on the pro-government Beyaz TV in early February, Vehbi Güler, a theologian and a staunch supporter of Erdoğan, pointed out that it was Satan who said “no” to God’s order to bow down before Adam and implied that those who vote against the amendment package in the April referendum are similar to Satan, who challenged God’s orders.
Sacit Arvasi, a US-based Turkish theologian whose religious sermons are widely popular among his Facebook followers, blasted pro-government circles for misleading people about religion by attributing divine characteristics to President Erdoğan and asked, “Do you consider him to be God?”
In a video recently shared on his Facebook page, Arvasi said people around Erdoğan and the ruling AKP have enough power already and must learn to make do with it.
“You have everything, television, newspapers, millions [of money], thousands of paid people working [for you] in social media. Advertisers, all of them in your hands. Make do with them,” he said.
Criticizing recent remarks by a pro-Erdoğan cleric declaring people who plan to vote against Erdoğan’s desires to be partners of Satan, Arvasi angrily said, “Keep your dirty hands off our religion, our faith, our Quran.”