Turkey PM sparks furor by saying he wants to ‘raise a religious youth’
By FULYA OZERKAN - NATIONAL POST
Added: Sun, 12 Feb 2012 11:51:07 UTC
In the light of the Prime Minister's speech a group of young Turkish academics from all around the world have penned a declaration of protest and started a petition, which you can find by clicking here. The Mods.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) arrives for a meeting in Ankara on February 9, 2012 / ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
ANKARA — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s comment that his government wants to “raise a religious youth” has touched a nerve in society, fuelling debates over an alleged “hidden agenda” to Islamise secular Turkey.
“We want to raise a religious youth,” said Erdogan, himself a graduate of a clerical school and the leader of the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), during a parliamentary address last week.
“Do you expect the conservative democrat AK Party to raise an atheist generation? That might be your business, your mission, but not ours. We will raise a conservative and democratic generation embracing the nation’s values and principles,” he added.
Erdogan’s remarks drew strong criticism from the staunchly secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, with its leader calling him a “religion-monger.”
“It is a sin to garner votes over religion. You are not religious but a religion-monger,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, accusing Erdogan of polarising the country by touching its faultlines.
“I’m asking the prime minister: what can I do if I don’t want my child to be raised as religious and conservative?” wrote prominent liberal commentator Hasan Cemal in Milliyet daily.
“If you are going to train a religious and conservative generation in schools, what will happen to my child?” he asked.
Columnist Mehmet Ali Birand also criticised Erdogan this week in an article titled, “The race for piety will be our end.”
“What does it mean, really, that the state raises religious youth? Is this the first step towards a religious state?” he wrote in Hurriyet Daily News.
Erdogan must explain what he meant, otherwise a dangerous storm may erupt and go as far as fights about being religious versus being godless, he argued.
Neither religious nor political uniformity can be imposed on Turkey given regional, ethnic and sectarian diversity in the country, wrote Semih Idiz in Milliyet daily on Tuesday.
He said millions of people “have subscribed to secular lifestyles” even before the republic.
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