An imam in Turkey’s central province of Yozgat used the minaret of a local mosque to urge people to attend a Justice and Development Party (AKP) election rally at which President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was expected to make an appearance.
According to a video shared by investigative journalist İsmail Saymaz, the imam asked people to attend Erdoğan’s address planned for April 26 as part of his campaign for the presidential election on May 14.
“Our president will come Yozgat [today] at 3 p.m. for the opening ceremony of a high-speed train line and the [election] campaign rally. You are all invited. Buses for people who want to attend the opening ceremony will leave at 11 a.m. or 12 p.m. from Cumhuriyet Square in Boğazlıyan [a district in Yozgat],’ the imam said from the minaret on Wednesday.
However, President Erdoğan on Wednesday had to cancel his planned appearances due to a stomach bug less than three weeks before the election, with Vice President Fuat Oktay taking his place.
President Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Homeland Party leader Muharrem İnce and Sinan Oğan, the candidate of a bloc of four far-right parties, are the four candidates who have qualified to run in the presidential election.
The Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), the budget of which outstripped seven out of 17 Turkish ministries last year, is frequently criticized for being politicized under the AKP government, to the extent that President Erdoğan compared the staff and imams of the directorate to “members of the army” in 2018.
The ruling AKP has also been accused of incorporating political issues into mosques and using the Diyanet as an instrument to serve its political Islamist aims.
The Diyanet employs all of Turkey’s imams, organizes Koran courses for children, issues its own, nonbinding interpretations of Islamic norms and writes sermons to be read in the country’s 90,000 mosques. The institution, which employs all of Turkey’s imams, now has a staff of 117,000, and its budget has grown more than fourfold since 2006.