Directorate of Religious Affairs

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Directorate of Religious Affairs
Formation3 March 1924
TypeIslamic education, religious administration
HeadquartersAnkara, Turkey
Official language
Ali Erbaş
$2 billion (2020)[1]
WebsiteOfficial website
Document given by the Presidency of Religious Affairs for the mosque built by the Circassian businessman, historian and philanthropist Nahit Serbes. A typical example of a Diyanet document.

The Directorate of Religious Affairs in Turkey (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet) is an official state institution established in 1924 by the orders of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk[2] under article 136 of the Constitution of Turkey[3] to carry out some of the administrative duties previously managed by the Shaykh al-Islām, before the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate.[4]

As specified by law, the duties of the Diyanet are “to administrate the affairs related to faith and worship of the religion of Islam”.[4] The Diyanet drafts a weekly sermon delivered at the nation's 85,000 mosques and more than 2,000 mosques abroad that function under the directorate. It provides Quranic education for children and trains and employs all of Turkey's imams, who are considered civil servants.[5]

Starting from 2006, the Diyanet was fortified, by 2015 its budget had increased four-fold,[6][7] and staff doubled to nearly 150,000.[6] Its 2019 budget has been estimated at €1.7 billion ($1.87 billion), far exceeding that of most Turkish government ministries.[8] It has 1,000 branches across Turkey and offers educational, cultural, and charitable activities in 145 countries.[8] Diyanet TV was launched in 2012,[9] now broadcasting 24 hours a day.[6] It has expanded Quranic education to early ages and boarding schools – "enabling the full immersion of young children in a religious lifestyle"[9] – and now issues fatwa (Turkish: fetva) on demand.

Activities and history[edit]

During the government of the Democrat Party İmam Hatip schools which offered religious classes and were run by the Diyanet, (re-)opened. The number of schools offering Quran classes rose from 61 to in 1946 to 118 in 1948.[10] From 1975 onwards, graduates of the İmam Hatip schools were given the same status as regular high-school graduates and therefore they were granted permission to study at universities. In 1975 there were more than 300 İmam Hatip schools, with almost 300,000 students.[11] In 1984, the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği, or DİTİB) was opened in Germany to cater for the religious needs of the large Turkish minority there.

Prior to 2010, the Diyanet had taken some non-traditional stances on gender and health issues. In 2005 450 women were appointed vaizes (which are more senior than imams) by the Diyanet,[12] and it deemed in vitro fertilisation and birth control pills "proper according to Islam".[13][14]

In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Diyanet, where he met with its then president, Ali Bardakoğlu, and with various Turkish Muslim leaders, among them the Grand Muftis of Ankara and Istanbul.[15]

A 2021 academic publication summarized the Diyanet's growing activities as such: it launched its own 24-hour satellite television channel, Diyanet Television, in 2012, alongside presence on social media, the preschool Qur’an courses it offers went from 3,000 in 2000 to 16,200 in 2018, employing 24,463 instructors by the end of 2019, with nearly 4 million attending the summer Qur’anic courses in 2018 and aiming for 24 million for 2023, having published 1,734 books as of 2019 and distributing 9 million books free of charge as of 2018.[16]

Turkish Muslims outside the Diyanet[edit]

Diyanet has been criticized for following mainstream Sunni Islam but of Hanafi school and being "indifferent to the diversity of other Turkish Islamic creeds", i.e. the non-Hanafi who make up "a third to two fifths" of Turkey's population.[9] Non-Hanafi self-identified Muslims in Turkey include "about 9 million Alevis, perhaps two million Shi’a, and over a million Nusayris (Alawites)", plus the 15 million Sunni Kurds who follow the Shafi’i school and not the Hanafi school as well as many Quranists.[9]

The Diyanet and the Alevi[edit]

The Diyants relations with the Alevi was ambiguous. During the Government of Süleyman Demirel, the Diyanets approach towards the Alevi became of a denialist nature as Ibrahim Elmali was opposed to the mere existence of the Alevi stating "There is no such thing as Alevis".[17] Still during the early 2000s, during a trial in the Turkish Court of Cassation, the Diyanet was strongly opposed to the recognition of Alevi associations or to research on Alevi heritage as it would lead to "separatism".[18] The Ministry of Culture and also the Council of State criticized this approach as the Alevi represented a part of the Turkish culture.[18] The Diyanet responded denying any existence of an Alevi religion.[18] The Alevi were much more on the political agenda during the tenure of Mehmet Görmez, in which for the first time in the Diyanets history, an Alevi question was acknowledged.[19]

2010 and after[edit]

In 2010–2011, Diyanet began its transformation to "a supersized government bureaucracy for the promotion of Sunni Islam".[9] Diyanet chairman Ali Bardakoğlu, who had been appointed by a secularist president, was fired in late 2010 and replaced by Mehmet Görmez.[9] In 2010, while the AKP was involved in policy changes that ended bans on hijab, Bardakoğlu refused to recommend that Muslim women wear the hijab, saying the religion does not require it.[9]

Under the AKP government, the budget of the Diyanet quadrupled to over $2 billion by 2015, making its budget allocation 40 percent greater than the Ministry of the Interior's and equal to those of the Foreign, Energy, and Culture and Tourism ministries combined.[6] It now employs between 120,000[9] and 150,000 employees.[9][6][7]

Reforms undertaken in the administration of the İmam Hatip schools in 2012 have led to what one Turkish commentator called “the removal, in practice, of one of the most important laws of the revolution, the Tevhid-i Tedrisat (unity of education)".[9][20]

In 2012, Turkish President Abdullah Gül visited the institution and said “it is undoubtedly one of the most important duties of the Religious Affairs Directorate [i.e. the Diyanet] to teach our religion to our people in the most correct, clear and concise way and steer them away from superstition”.[21]

The Diyanet has been accused of serving for the ruling AKP party,[9] and of lavish spending (an expensive car and Jacuzzi for its head Mehmet Görmez).[22]

Following the July 2016 coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan removed 492 religious officials from the Diyanet.[14]

Also in 2016, Diyanet instructed affiliated imams and religious instances to collect detailed information on the Gülen movement. It handed 50 intelligence reports from 38 countries over to the Turkish parliament.[23][24][25]

In 2017, some argued that "Diyanet’s implication in Turkish domestic and foreign politics opens a new chapter on Erdoğan’s increasing authoritarianism".[26]

In 2018 Mustafa Çağrıcı claimed “The Diyanet of today has a more Islamist, more Arab worldview”.[27] The same year, Diyanet has suggested citizens practice e-fasting during Ramadan. E-fasting refers to cutting down on use of technologies such as smartphones, laptops and social media.[28]

Criticism of fatwas[edit]

The Diyanet began issuing fatwas on request sometime after 2011, and their number has been "rising rapidly".[9] Among the activities it found forbidden (haram) in Islam over a one-year period ending in late 2015 were: "feeding dogs at home, celebrating the western New Year, lotteries, and tattoos".[9]

Use of toilet paper is not prohibited by the Diyanet on condition water is also used. This matter was misunderstood by some non-Muslims since the majority do not use water for cleaning following urination or defecation. Muslims are required to purify themselves with water following these and some other bodily excretions. In an April 2015 fatwa that made news outside of Turkey's borders,[9] the Diyanet ruled its usage permissible within Islam though it emphasized that water should be the primary source of cleansing.[29]

Fatwa of the Diyanet that have come under criticism from some members of the Turkish public include an early 2016 ruling that engaged couples should not hold hands or spend time alone during their engagement period.[30][31]

In January 2016 a controversy arose over a fatwa which briefly appeared on the fatwa section of the Diyanet website, answering a reader's question on whether a man's marriage would become invalid marriage from a religious perspective if the man felt sexual desire for his daughter. The Diyanet posted a reply stating that there was a difference of opinion on the matter among Islam's different Madhhab (schools of religious jurisprudence). “For some, a father kissing his daughter with lust or caressing her with desire has no effect on the man’s marriage,” but the Hanafi school believed that the daughter's mother would become haram (forbidden) to such a man. A "social media storm" ensued with "scores of users appealed to the Telecommunications Presidency’s Internet Hotline accusing Turkey’s top religious body of `encouraging child abuse`.” The Diyanet subsequently removed the answer from its website, posting that the fatwa page was “under repair.” It later issued an official statement to the press, insisting that its response was distorted through “tricks, wiliness and wordplay” aiming to discredit the institution, and that it would take legal action against news reports of the response.[31][32][Note 1]


The Diyanet's imams are involved, under the auspices of the National Intelligence Organization, in the Turkish state's efforts to monitor its citizens abroad, particularly those suspected of involvement with the Gulen movement, the Kurdistan Workers Party, and the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front.[34][35][36][37][38]


The Diyanet provides services and is active in countries with a significant Turkish diaspora. As of 2018, the Diyanet was present with 61 branches in 38 countries.[39]


The Diyanet provides services to about a dozen mosques and associations in Australia.[40]


The Avusturya Türk Islam Kültür ve Sosyal Yardımlaşma Birliği (abbreviated ATIB) is the largest Muslim organization in Austria and in 2018 had between 75 and 100 thousand members.[41]

The roots of the ATIB are found in Turkish immigration to Austria from the 1960s onwards. The goal of its foundation was to create a Turkish-nationalist movement of Islam and to prevent adherents from joining mosques run by the Millî Görüş. As a new religious law came into effect in 2015 in Austria, Islamic congregations and community organisations had to find domestic sources of revenue as foreign financing of religious institutions was banned. The then president of the Diyanet, Mehmet Görmez (2011 - 2017) called for Muslims to argue against the new law. In 2019, a number of imams employed by the ATIB, who had to leave the country due to the new regulations, launched a legal challenge the regulations which was rejected by the Constitutional Court of Austria.[41]


The Diyanet, under Fondation religieuse islamique turque de Belgique, controls 70 out of the 300 mosques in Belgium and forms the largest network of Muslim communities.[42] In comparison to other Muslim organizations it has a simple method of operation. Muslims in Belgium buy or construct a mosque and donate the premises to the Diyanet. The Diyanet will then send an imam trained in Turkey and pay his salary. The imam will stay a few years then be rotated back to Turkey to pursue a career or be sent to another Diyanet mosque abroad. The imams are officials of the Turkish state.[42]


The Diyanet overlooks TRNC Directorate of Religious Affairs in the island of Cyprus, particularly in Northern Cyprus.[43]


The "Danish Turkish Islamic Foundation" (Danish: Dansk Tyrkisk Islamisk Stiftelse) is part of the Diyanet and is the largest Muslim organisation in Denmark.[44] The Diyanet's major competing Islamic networks are the Millî Görüş as well as the Alevi association.[44]


The Diyanet controls about 270 mosques in France and pays the salaries of about 150 Turkish imams in the country.[45]


The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (German: Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion e.V., Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Türk-İslam Birliği), usually referred to as DİTİB, was founded in 1984 As of 2016, the DİTİB funds 900 mosques in Germany.[46] The headquarters of DİTİB is the Cologne Central Mosque in Cologne-Ehrenfeld.


Tokyo Camii and Diyanet Turkish Cultural Center was established as the “Tokyo Camii Foundation” under the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Türkiye in 1997.[47] 12 imams have served in the mosque so far (as of 2022).

The Netherlands[edit]

Of the 475 mosques in the Netherlands in 2018, a plurality (146) are controlled by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). Diyanet implements the political ideology of the Turkish AKP party and employ imams trained in Turkey in mosques under its control. Critics argue that the Diyanet imams, some of whom do not speak Dutch, hinder the effective integration of Dutch-Turkish Muslims into the society of the Netherlands by promoting allegiance to the Turkish state while neglecting to promote loyalty to the Dutch state.[48]


The Diyanet headquarter in Sweden is a foundation based in Huddinge.[49]

According to public service radio SR in 2017, the Diyanet runs nine mosques and pays the salaries of 14 imams in Sweden. After the failed coup in 2016, many of them wrote strongly worded posts on social media condemning the Gülen movement and other opponents of the Erdoğan rule. Along with their religious duties, the imams are also tasked with reporting on critics of the Turkish government. According to Dagens Nyheter, propaganda for president Erdoğan and the AKP party is presented in the mosques.[48][49][50]

United Kingdom[edit]

Established in 2001, the UK branch of the Diyanet operated 17 mosques in 2018.[39] It was also a main force behind the construction of the first eco-friendly European Mosque in Cambridge.[39]

United States[edit]

The Diyanet runs over a dozen mosques in the United States of America from the Diyanet Center of America based in the suburbs of the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area.


The following people have presided over the institution:[51]

Name Tenure
Began End
Mehmet Rifat Börekçi 1924 1941
Mehmet Şerefettin Yaltkaya 1942 1947
Ahmet Hamdi Akseki 1947 1951
Eyüp Sabri Hayırlıoğlu 1951 1960
Ömer Nasuhi Bilmen 1960 1961
Hasan Hüsnü Erdem 1961 1964
Mehmet Tevfik Gerçeker 1964 1965
İbrahim Bedrettin Elmalılı 1965 1966
Ali Rıza Hakses 1966 1968
Lütfi Doğan 1968 1972
Lütfi Doğan 1972 1976
Süleyman Ateş 1976 1978
Tayyar Altıkulaç 1978 1986
Mustafa Sait Yazıcıoğlu 1986 1992
Mehmet Nuri Yılmaz 1992 2003
Ali Bardakoğlu 2003 2010
Mehmet Görmez 2010 2017
Ali Erbaş[52] 2017 -

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to a 2015 Freedom House report, authorities in Turkey "continued to aggressively use the penal code, criminal defamation laws, and the antiterrorism law to crack down on journalists and media outlets. Verbal attacks on journalists by senior politicians—including Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the incumbent prime minister who was elected president in August—were often followed by harassment and even death threats against the targeted journalists on social media."[33]


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  5. ^ "Top cleric delivers Friday sermon in Mardin". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  6. ^ a b c d e Lepeska, David (17 May 2015). "Turkey Casts the Diyanet". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  7. ^ a b "2006 Mali Yilin Bütçesi" (in Turkish). Alo Maliye. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
  8. ^ a b "Diyanet: The Turkish religious authority that makes millions". DW. 20 September 2019. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Cornell, Svante (2015-10-09). "The Rise of Diyanet: the Politicization of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs". Retrieved 2016-07-27.
  10. ^ Kisaichi, Masatoshi (2011). Popular Movements and Democratization in the Islamic World. Routledge. p. 166. ISBN 978-0415665896.
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  12. ^ Jones, Dorian (2005). "Challenging Traditional Gender Roles". DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
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  19. ^ Mutluer, Nil (2018-12-31). "Diyanet's Role in Building the 'Yeni (New) Milli' in the AKP Era". European Journal of Turkish Studies. Social Sciences on Contemporary Turkey (27). doi:10.4000/ejts.5953. ISSN 1773-0546.
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  30. ^ "Turkey's religious body says engaged couples should not hold hands". Doğan News Agency. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Turkey's Diyanet denies responsibility in controversial fatwa on father's lust for daughter". hurriyet. 8 January 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
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  34. ^ SPIEGEL, DER (17 February 2017). "Türkei spionierte europaweit Gülen-Anhänger aus - DER SPIEGEL - Politik". Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
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  39. ^ a b c Tregenna, Chris (2019-06-20). "The Turkish Diyanet in the UK: How national conditions affect the influence of a transnational religious institution". Religion and Global Society. Retrieved 2022-05-26.
  40. ^ "Camilerimiz ve Derneklerimiz". Retrieved 2022-04-20.
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  42. ^ a b "Espionnage de la Diyanet: quand les musulmans de Belgique seront-ils enfin considérés comme des compatriotes?". Le Soir (in French). 2017-04-08. Retrieved 2020-11-15.
  43. ^ "KKTC DİN İŞLERİ BAŞKANLIĞI". Retrieved 2022-04-20.
  44. ^ a b Nielsen, Akgonul & Alibasic 2009, 100.
  45. ^ "Macron's War on Islamists Comes Up Against Erdogan's Soft Power". Retrieved 2020-11-12.
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  47. ^ "History of Tokyo Camii – 東京ジャーミイ・ディヤーナト トルコ文化センター | Tokyo Camii and Diyanet Turkish Culture Center". Retrieved 2022-05-17.
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  49. ^ a b Öhman, Daniel (2017-03-28). "Hela reportaget: Erdogans långa arm". Sveriges Radio (in Swedish). Retrieved 2021-11-22.
  50. ^ "Genom statsanställda imamer har Turkiet inflytande i nio svenska moskéer. Många turksvenskar i Stockholm, Göteborg och Malmö har slutat gå till moskén av rädsla. Den alltmer auktoritära turkiska regimen skrämmer och kartlägger meningsmotståndare i Sverige". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). 2017-04-01. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  51. ^ Former presidents Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine, Presidency of Religious Affairs (in Turkish)
  52. ^ "Prof. Dr. Ali ERBAŞ".


External links[edit]