Turkish President Erdoğan compares Diyanet’s 140,000 imams and staff to an army

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan compared the staff and imams of Turkey’s religious body, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), to “an army of 140,000” during a speech at an event titled “Meeting with Religious Officials” and said: “From such an army we cannot get the results we expect. We should work more.”

Erdoğan addressed imams at the presidential complex at a meeting marking “Mosques and Religious Officials Week” and expressed his gratitude to all the religious officials who had called on people to rise up against a controversial coup attempt on the night of July 15, 2016.

Erdoğan’s militant Islamism had earned him a conviction in 1998 for inciting religious hatred. He had publicly read an Islamist poem including the lines: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…” He was sentenced to 10 months in jail but was freed after four months.

On Thursday, Erdoğan also conveyed his satisfaction about a mosque that was just opened in Cologne. “We opened our mosque in Cologne. Germans now visit this mosque frequently. I am really happy about these visits. I hope most of them convert to Islam. A building is only rich if it affects the people,” he said.

Erdoğan also urged Diyanet imams to encourage women and children to become accustomed to going to mosques, saying there was a “taboo” against women and men praying together in mosques.

“There is a mentality that portrays this as Islam. But we need to get rid of it. These wrong taboos need to be destroyed now. And this needs to be done by the president of the Diyanet. If the vice president of Diyanet is currently a woman, that is a sign such taboos are being destroyed,” he said.

Erdoğan noted the first week of October has been celebrated as “Mosques and Religious Officials Week” since 1986. “We gladly observe these events aimed at boosting our children and women’s interest in our mosques,” he said.

Erdoğan pointed out that turning mosques merely into houses of prayer would be one of the worst things that could be done. “ If we are to build the future, we should encourage a mosque-centered life,” he said.

Turkey’s Directorate Of Religious Affairs earns $42,000 from interest

In related news, according to a report by Turkey’s Court of Accounts, in 2017 Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs earned 256,806 Turkish lira ($42,000) in interest, which it says is forbidden in Islam.

The directorate’s total revenue last year was 514 million Turkish lira ($84 million). The figures show that the share of interest in the directorate’s total revenue has increased over the years.

“Interest ignores the rightful shares of the believers, opens the way for deceiving people. When someone thinks he is earning, in fact, he is sustaining losses, and interest brings disaster to societies by eroding trust,” Ali Erbaş, the head of the directorate, said in June. “Many bankruptcies, suicides, broken marriages and wasted lives are the result of interest,” he said.

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