A religious debate brews after controversial remarks by a writer with a theology background concerning women in predominantly Muslim, yet constitutionally secular Turkey. Nurettin Yıldız, who is accused of justifying domestic violence with references to the Qur'an is a spiritual leader for some and a renowned name in religious circles. However, it was his remarks that his followers say was from an "old" audio recording that propelled him to notoriety recently.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was the first official to speak openly about Yıldız after prosecutors launched a probe of charges against Yıldız of inciting hatred.
Without openly referencing him, Erdoğan criticized Yıldız in a speech on Thursday at an event for women. The president, who takes pride in being a Muslim and completing an imam-hatip school (a school primarily focusing on theology), slammed the mindset that fails to see Islam's "update to modern times."
Erdoğan's statement was followed by Ali Erbaş, head of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), the country's state-run religious authority, who urged the public to "heed religious knowledge dispelled by DİB's high council of clerics."
Erdoğan, who received a mixed reaction to his "update" remarks, clarified the matter in another speech in Ankara on Friday. "No one has a right to impose something on our religion. I don't find it correct to publicly discuss a matter that should be debated by scholars. The public is certainly confused on who to believe amid such bigotry. We can't tolerate it. DİB should not allow such people to speak on behalf of religion. I don't hear the opinions of our (genuine) scholars," he said. Erdoğan said he was not a proponent of "reforming" religion. "Yet, we cannot simply ignore people who stain Islam. We need a healthy religious education," he said. "We will never give an opportunity to those trying to tarnish the image of our religion. We cannot remain silent in the face of wrongs. I will keep saying what is right. You cannot scare me," Erdoğan said.
The president highlighted that Islam has principles, rules that cannot be changed in any way. "You cannot change the rules for Muslims written in Qur'an too. Yet, religious guidelines, interpretation of things explained in Qur'an and hadiths (sayings of Prophet Muhammad) can change depending on changing circumstances and times," he stated.