Akyol paints a picture of progress, steady but very slow, in encouraging change in Islam. But in fact, there has been backsliding in the very place where a secular Muslim society had been taken the farthest: Kemalist Turkey. Erdogan turns out to be the anti-Ataturk, he and his aides appearing proudly with their hijabbed wives (one of his ministers is publicly polygamous), singing the praises of Islam, so visibly different in spirit and letter from Ataturk. The re-islamizing of Turkey is most evident in the government’s vastly expanded support for the Imam Hatip (Imam and Preacher) schools. These are schools supported by the state, which provide pupils with a very heavy dose of religious education. Under Erdogan, these schools have multiplied. Support for Imam Hatip upper schools, for boys and girls aged 14 to 18, doubled from 2017 to 6.57 billion lira ($1.68 billion) in 2018 — nearly a quarter of the total upper schools budget. Although the 645,000 Imam Hatip students make up only 11 percent of the total upper school population, they receive 23 percent of funding — double the amount spent per pupil at mainstream schools.
Since 2012, when Imam Hatip education was extended to middle schools for pupils aged 10 to 14, total pupil numbers have risen fivefold, to 1.3 million students in over 4,000 schools. The government intends to complete construction of 128 Imam Hatip upper schools in 2018, and has plans to build a further 50, the budget and investment plans show. Turkey has also increased religious education courses at regular state schools, some of which have been converted into Imam Hatip schools. Religious studies take up about 1/3 of the time in the Imam Hatip schools.