TBB chair says civil marriage by muftis threatens secular order

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (2nd R) shakes hands with Union of Turkish Bar Associations Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu (R) at Presidential Complex in Ankara, Turkey on August 16, 2016. Turkish Presidency / Murat Cetinmuhurdar / Anadolu Agency

Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu has issued a written statement criticizing a parliament proposal that allows muftis to perform civil marriages, saying the bill threatens the secular order.

The TBB chair, who warned that the regulation, which contravenes the constitution, would increase the polarization in society, said: “The officialization of civil marriage by muftis that is proposed with justifications that look innocent directly threatens the secular order.”
A proposal to allow muftis, supervisors of imams in local mosques, to perform civil marriage ceremonies was presented to the Turkish Parliament on Tuesday.

Underlining that his criticism was not directed at religious marriage ceremonies, Feyzioğlu said: “With this regulation, the society will be divided between those who ‘get the ceremony done by the mufti’ and those who ‘get it done by the municipality.’ The discussion of how pious those who go to a mufti are and how impious the ones who go to the municipality are will emerge.”

A mufti works under the Religious Affairs Directorate and deals with the religious affairs of Muslims in provinces and districts. While muftis do not have the legal authority to marry couples, this is bound to change in the event the bill is approved by Parliament.
The bill, which was previously discussed, received criticism from experts who argued it would allow an increase in child marriages.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Şenal Sarıhan had asked in a parliamentary question: “From what need is this kind of transfer of authority born? Are marriage officers and municipalities not able to meet the need? What is being planned, under circumstances that will emerge after this change, to prevent the continuous sexual abuse and exploitation of children under the status of ‘marriage’ and ‘marriage by an imam,’ which is already very common in Turkey and which is causing social problems and violations of rights?”

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