Ramazan Taşaltın, a university rector in the southeastern Turkish province of Şanlıurfa, has resigned following reactions to remarks he made suggesting that “obeying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a “religious obligation for Muslims.”
“My personal remarks during a private broadcaster’s program were unfortunately manipulated and were attempted to be used to undermine our respected president,” Harran University Rector Ramazan Taşaltın claimed and added in a statement on Thursday that “In order to not undermine my university and the office of the president, I am leaving my post.”
Taşaltın made the statement while speaking to the pro-government radical-Islamist Akit TV, where he appeared as a guest on Oct. 30. When asked if Erdoğan was ”alone,” Taşaltın responded by saying: “Of course he is. He was alone when he was fighting against FETÖ, too,’’ in a reference to the Gülen movement.
“FETÖ” is a derogatory term coined by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Erdoğan to refer to the Gülen movement.
“In Islamic terms, it is fard al-ayn [an individual obligation] to obey Erdoğan, and opposing him is haram [forbidden],’ Taşaltın had said, noting, however, that the errors of Turkey’s president must be pointed out.
The rector’s remarks were widely condemned, not only among the opposition but also by members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) chaired by President Erdoğan.
Turkey’s Supreme Education Board (YÖK) also released a statement on Thursday in which it confirmed Taşaltın’s resignation. “As such, it is seen once again that it is important for all our esteemed educators in our academic community, and especially the administrators who hold are involved in decision-making, to be measured, reasonable, scientific and respectful for social sensitivities in their words and actions,” the YÖK statement said.
President Erdoğan has a firm grip over the country’s universities. In July of this year, Erdoğan issued a decree stripping much of the supervisory powers of YÖK and gave himself sole authority to appoint university rectors.