Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sharply criticized what he described as “hostility towards Sharia,” the religious law that is part of the Islamic tradition, equating it with hostility towards Islam.
Erdoğan made the remarks during a graduation ceremony for religious scholars.
Erdoğan pointed to a two-pronged campaign that he said is being waged against Turkey — one that promotes a secular Turkish identity devoid of Islamic values, and another that harbors hostility toward Sharia, the Islamic legal system.
He condemned efforts to separate Turkish identity from its historical and cultural Islamic roots, describing such attempts as efforts to “put the Turkish nation in a museum.”
The president took aim at opposition figures and groups expressing unease about religious symbols and criticizing religious education for children, calling such statements foolishness.
In particular he criticized the leader of the country’s second largest political party for calling religious education for children a “medieval way of thinking” without naming the person. The criticism seems to have been directed at Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Özgür Özel, who is known for his secular stance.
Erdoğan emphasized the negative effects of ignorance and misunderstanding of Islamic principles and lamented the prevalence of such attitudes in certain parts of Turkish society. However, he expressed confidence that joint efforts could overcome this “darkness of ignorance.”
The president emphasized the broader role of religious officials who go beyond their duties in mosques and Quran classes, calling on them to act as leaders and role models in their communities to guide, preach and defend their faith.
The results of a study by the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) indicate that the Turkish population favors a secular and democratic government. In 2016, 75 percent of participants expressed a desire to live in a secular state, a figure that rose to 81 percent in 2020. Similarly, a significant proportion of the population is satisfied with living in a democratic country. The proportion of those who prefer a legal system based on Sharia law fell from 22 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in 2020.