The speaker of the Turkish parliament, Ismail Kahraman, has called for the emulation of other Middle Eastern states through a constitutional reform because the word Allah does not appear in the Turkish constitution.
He said as “a Muslim country”, Turkey needs “a religious constitution” rather than using word “secularism.” He questioned “why should we, as a Muslim country, distance ourselves from our religion” as he spoke at a conference in Istanbul attended by academics and writers from Islamic countries.
Kahraman has the right to propose constitutional amendments as the speaker of the parliament and his party, the ruling AKP, has 317 of the 550 seats which is short of the 330 votes required to submit it for a referendum. It is unclear if the plan will be supported by the party.
Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the secular CHP blasted the speaker’s remarks stating that “the chaos in the Middle East is the result of politics instrumentalizing religion.”
“Secularism is the primary principle of social peace” and also ensures that “everyone has religious freedom” Kilicdaroglu posted on Tweeter in response to Kharaman’s statement.
Kharaman had stressed that the constitution “needs to discuss religion … It should not be irreligious, this new constitution, it should be a religious constitution.”
Under the rule of the AKP, calls for a new constitution have been increasing but the head of the parliament’s constitutional commission and fellow AKP member Mustafa Sentop said there were no plans to remove the concept of secularism from the future draft.
If the party gets support of other political parties, Turkey could soon be shifting from being a secular state where religion and state are separated to a constitutionally religious state where the laws of the land would be heavily influenced by Islam.
The majority of the 78million strong population is Sunni Muslim, according to Reuters. About a fifth is estimated to be Alevi, which draws from Shia, Sufi and Anatolian folk traditions. There are about 100,000 Christians and 17,000 Jews living in the country.