Turkey has a government agency that regulates “religious affairs” [read: Sunni Muslim Affairs]. It is run by the country’s top Muslim cleric and reports to the prime minister. The Directorate for Religious Affairs, or Diyanet in Turkish, enjoys an annual budget bigger than those of more than 10 other ministries combined – and its president, a government-appointed cleric, enjoys a $400,000 chauffeur-driven car.
Among its duties is to issue “fatwas,” or to tell Muslim Turks what is religiously permissible and what is not. Its current president, the top cleric, also enjoys making long, doctrinaire speeches. Sometimes they sound reasonable, sometimes not.
When, a year ago, Islamist extremists in Paris were putting the final touches on their gruesome plan to kill a dozen cartoonists and attack the Charlie Hebdo magazine, Diyanet was busy issuing fatwas and publishing a religious calendar for three million or so desks and walls in offices and homes. Diyanet, at that time, also issued a fatwa that urged Muslims who have tattoos to repent if unable to erase them. Another fatwa in Diyanet’s 2015 calendar said: “Do not keep pet dogs at home … Prophet Mohammed once said: ‘Angels do not visit homes where there are dogs and paintings.'”
In those days of Parisian chaos — even before the jihadists killed over 130 people in November — Diyanet’s president and Turkey’s top cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez “did not believe” jihadists could kill innocent people. Speaking to a press conference in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Gormez said that the use of Islamic symbols by the perpetrators of the attack was a sign of “manipulation.” In other words, Professor Gormez was telling the world that someone else was carrying out the attacks and putting the blame on Muslims.