Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) said in this week’s Friday sermon that celebrating New Year’s Day is a result of “cultural degeneration” in the country, adding that lotteries and other games of chance are forbidden in Islam, local media reported.
The sermon, which was delivered just over a week before the beginning of 2023, argued that Muslims should embrace the values that make them who they are at a time when moral values, customs and traditions are deteriorating and cultural alienation is rapidly increasing.
“One kind of cultural degeneration is the New Year’s celebration. However, the festivities on New Year’s Eve, the symbolic figures in these festivities and the cutting down of trees have nothing to do with our history and culture,” the Diyanet added.
The directorate further stated that the lottery, betting and other games of chance, which they defined as different types of gambling, were forbidden in Islam.
Diyanet, the budget of which outstripped seven out of 17 Turkish ministries this year, is frequently criticized for being politicized under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, to the extent that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared the staff and imams of the directorate to “members of the army” in 2018.
The Turkish government has been accused of incorporating political issues into Friday sermons and using the directorate as an instrument to silence dissent and cover up wrongdoing.
The directorate was also slammed for remaining silent when non-Muslim communities were attacked or insulted for their beliefs.
In recent years, Santa Claus figures or people dressed as Santa have been attacked. In 2013, during a demonstration in İstanbul’s Beyazıt Square that raised a further alarm for New Year’s celebrations, protesters performed a “circumcision” on an inflatable Santa Claus and then stabbed it while shouting “This is a Muslim country!”