Is Turkey An Islamic or Secular Country?
While Turkey's president has enacted religious policy, the country's constitution declares that it is secular. So how secular is Turkey?
Weeks after the failure of an attempted military coup, Turkey remains a chaotic place, caught between East and West. But despite calls for an Islamic overhaul to the country's constitution, Turkey is still a secular nation. Technically. For now.
As Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily report, Turkey has maintained a secular government and constitution since its founding in the 1920s. Turkey's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, believed that a secular political system was the only path to true modernization. He established the former Ottoman-Turkish state as a republic under the Western ideology now known as Kemalism.
A military coup in the 1980s encouraged the return of Islamic practices into public affairs, and various power struggles since then have centered on the issue. Turkey's public school system is a useful barometer of the country's ongoing debate. Religious education had always been a part of public school education, but after the coup it became mandatory. Turkey also saw an increase in the number of Imam Hatip schools, which base their entire curriculum on the teachings of Islam.
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Under Turkey's current president Recep Yayyip Erdogan, many secular schools have been converted into religious schools. These changes have been met with resistance from parents, and in fact there is widespread public opposition to the government-sponsored "Islamization" of Turkey. This may seem surprising, since official reports show that 99 percent of the country is Muslim. But keep in mind that every Turkish citizen is automatically registered as Muslim at birth, and many Turks identify as Muslim without being particularly religious.
In fact, according to a 2016 Pew Research study, only 13 percent of Turks think that the Quran should directly influence their country's laws. Calls for a fully Islamic constitution have been resisted so far, even by president Erdogan, who is a devout Muslim himself. The conflict is not strictly religious, either: Turkey's most serious divisions are largely political and ethnic.
The recent attempted coup and subsequent backlash have confused matters even further. Turkey has also been the target of increasing terrorist attacks -- you can learn more about that here. Clearly, Turkey is in a state of historic upheaval, but its government remains secular for the time being.
BBC: Turkey parliament brawls over changes to constitution
New York Times: Turkey Promotes Religious Schools, Often Defying Parents
The Atlantic: 4 Jarring Signs of Turkey's Growing Islamization
Pew Research: The Divide Over Islam and National Laws in the Muslim World