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Minister campaigns for ‘yes’ votes in referendum at Trabzon mosque

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As the opposition continues to criticize the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for using Islam during a referendum campaign, Health Minister Recep Akdağ demanded “yes” votes from people in the courtyard of a mosque in Trabzon on Sunday.

Speaking to people in the courtyard of the Mehmet Akif Ersoy Mosque, Akdağ repeated the government’s criticism against Germany. Defending the arrest of German daily Die Welt’s Turkey reporter Deniz Yücel by a court in İstanbul last week, Minister Akdağ accused Berlin of harboring terrorists.

Akdağ called on people to vote “yes” in a constitutional amendment package on April 16 in order to pave the way for a “new era in Turkey.”

President Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are pursuing an aggressive policy of propaganda ahead of the referendum.

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.”

Last month, tension surfaced at the Cahit Nakıpoğlu Mosque when the imam called on people to participate in a referendum campaign rally of President Erdoğan. 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 was heard saying: “I do not engage in politics. We are siding with Muslims,” in video footage.

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.

Hayrettin Karaman, a leading theologian and issuer of fatwas, or religious edicts, for ruling AKP circles and President Erdoğan, on Sunday said that “no” voters in an April 16 referendum that will switch Turkey to an executive presidency are opponents of Islam.

“Most of them are notably from the CHP and HDP, white Turks, Kemalists — opponents of Islam, fans of the West who are estranged from their own values, those who don’t want Turkey to be strong, those who don’t want the Islamic world to be united, those who don’t want Turkey and the East to leave the orbit designed by the West. That is the main reason behind ‘no’,” he wrote.

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