Turkey calls on country’s religious authority in struggle to keep prices down

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An imam reads the Friday sermon in mosque. AFP PHOTOS

As the Turkish lira continues to be hit by losses in value against foreign currencies, the government has been struggling to keep prices down, even going to the extent of using the country’s religious authority, Diyanet, which sent mosques a sermon to read during the Friday prayer, reminding Muslims that black marketing and speculation during the currency crisis are sins.

“[Islam] certainly forbids unlawful profits such as bribery, usury, speculation, black marketing and rigging prices, which challenge moral values and disrupt the peace in the society,” the weekly sermon said, according to the Diken news website.

Earlier this week one of Turkey’s biggest retailers, BİM, known for its cheap prices of basic foodstuffs and consumer goods, hiked the price of 350 items due to the currency crisis.

The lira was at 3.76 to the US dollar on Jan. 1, and as of Friday it was at 6.60.

Company executive Haluk Dortluoğlu on Friday said that the cost of production of imported raw materials had spiked and that in order to maintain production they had to increase prices, according to the Dünya daily.

However, consumers on social media accused BİM of being an “exploiter,” arguing that the increased prices of some goods had nothing to do with the losses in the lira’s value. A tweet that attract tens of thousands of people’s attention even called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to intervene in the price hikes.

Minister of Trade Ruhsar Pekcan on Friday weighed in on the issue and warned the “profiteers” who take advantage of the currency crisis by increasing prices.

She also stressed that the ministry would watch the markets closely in order to prevent the hoarding of merchandise and speculation.

Accordingly, the ministry on Friday issued a new Commercial Code regulation that labels price increases connected to the currency crisis in goods that were not affected by the lira’s losses in value as “deceptive commercial practices,” punishable by a fine of up to TL 50,000 (around $8,500).

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