Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blog #3 Turkey’s atheists and religious minorities join forces to protest religious instruction in schools

In Turkey religious minorities are teaming up with atheists to protest and attempt to end the mandatory religious education that has been sweeping across the country. The minority group are the Alevis and are actually the second largest religious group in Turkey. Unlike the Christians and Jews, the Alevi are not officially seen as a religious minority and are not exempt from the religious education which is structured around sunni Islam.

Turkey is technically a secular country but in 2003 they elected Recap Tayyip Erdogan under the banner of the Justice and Development Party that had started to change. In response to protests and the one day boycott police began violently breaking up protests using things such as water canons and pepper spray and arrested the protest leaders for insulting the President. The boycott in particular was in response to the establishment of more religious secondary schools known as Imam Hatips which were typically used to train state Imams.

This holds the consequence of many secular schools being converted into Hatip schools and leaving many to have little choice but to enroll in these schools leading enrollment to skyrocket from 65,000 to 1 million. This had the response of the European Court of Human Rights ruled against this in September but it held little effect on Erdogan who responded “This is an incorrect ruling and there is no similar example in the West, The mandatory physics classes, the mandatory chemistry classes are not sources of debate anywhere around the world. But everybody talks about the religious courses.”

There are many who have had to resort to sending their kids to a further away city in order to avoid the religious schooling requirements but sometimes that's not enough as is the case with Cem Sarikaya who was forced to take all religious electives until having to resort to being sent to a private high school.

This article seems very fitting considering the recent chapter on religion and ethnicity and that it has some major implications on the growing pressure religious minorities facing persecution. I also found it odd that the religious minorty in question that is technically Islam is being treated the same as those who are without faith or are agnostics.


SOC 202-01
Thomas Cohen

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