Hayrettin Karaman, a leading theologian and issuer of fatwas, or religious edicts, for ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) circles and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, implied in a column on Thursday that headscarved women who smoke are involved in immorality.
According to cleric Karaman, smoking in general is not allowed, but it especially does not suit a women with a headscarf, who, he implies, is trying to attract attention from others.
“When I see a woman with a headscarf smoking in public, this is my impression: It is as if she is saying to those who are different: ‘Don’t mind my headscarf, don’t give up on me, I have a lot more to share with you’,” said Karaman.
Defining smoking as an obscene and indecent act, Karaman said that “women do not smoke in our tradition.”
Karaman, a well-respected figure among political Islamist groups in Turkey and regarded in high esteem by Erdoğan, frequently makes controversial statements in the name of Islam that favor Erdoğan and the AKP government.
In February, he said the people must help the government in a purge of the faith-based Gülen movement. He also said mistakes made during government purges must be ignored.
Karaman had also said that the “no” voters in an April 16 referendum, which introduced an executive presidency to increase Erdoğan’s powers, are opponents of Islam and that casting a “yes” vote is a fard, the Islamic term for a religious obligation.
President Erdoğan himself is also notorious for his controversial remarks about women and has long been accused by critics of seeking to erode the country’s secular principles and limiting the civil liberties of women.
In a speech in 2014, he said women are not equal to men. He said biological differences meant women and men could not serve the same function, adding that manual work was unsuitable for the “delicate nature” of women.
He has drawn the ire of feminist groups for declaring that every woman in Turkey should have three children and with proposals to limit abortion rights, the morning-after pill and caesarean sections.
In another controversial statement he made in early 2016, Erdoğan said a woman who refrained from having children out of a desire to work was “deficient” and “in denial of her womanhood.”