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Turkish religious authority issues fatwa allowing gov’t to take out interest-bearing loans

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A new fatwa from Turkey’s top religious authority on Tuesday said the government was allowed to take out loans with interest for its public housing projects, the Arab News website reported.

The fatwa was issued by the country’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, the Diyanet. It said that taking out loans with interest was a sin except for the government’s public housing projects. “However, taking interest loans from the banks for setting up a new business or buying a car is a sin,” it added.

The fatwa was approved by the Diyanet’s High Council of Religious Affairs, with a majority voting in favor of it. According to the Diyanet, the distinction resides in the government’s aim of providing housing for low and medium-income households, and the ruling is valid only for public banks.

There has been debate about whether the Diyanet has become political following the dismissal of some imams who failed to follow guidelines set by the religious authority.

Among those sacked was a cleric due to his musical activities in a rock band.

The Diyanet budget, which exceeded TL10 million ($1.8 million) in 2019, is also a talking point in Turkey because its expenses last year surpassed the overhead of six ministries.

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