Directorate of Religious Affairs

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Directorate of Religious Affairs
Diyanet logo.jpg
Logo of the Directorate of Religious Affairs
Formation3 March 1924
TypeIslamic education, religious administration
HeadquartersAnkara, Turkey
Official language
Ali Erbaş
$2 billion (2020) [1]
WebsiteOfficial website
Nahit Serbes Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı Cami Açılış Belgesi.jpg

In Turkey, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Turkish: Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet) is an official state institution established in 1924[2] under article 136 of the Constitution of Turkey. It is a successor to the Shaykh al-Islām, after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate.[3]

As specified by law, the duties of the Diyanet are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places”.[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 fatawa 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 allowed in vitro fertilisation and birth control pills.[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] Bardakoglu's successor was less accommodating, publicly called the Pope “immoral” in 2015 over his recognition of the Armenian genocide.[9]

Turkish Muslims outside the Diyanet[edit]

Diyanet has been criticized for following mainstream Hanafi Sunni Islam and being "indifferent to the diversity of Turkish Islam", 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 15 million Alevis, perhaps three million Shi’a, and over a million Nusayris (Alawites)", plus the 12–15 million Sunni Kurds who follow the Shafi’i and not the Hanafi school.[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".[16] 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".[17] The Ministry of Culture and also the Council of State criticized this approach as the Alevi represented a part of the Turkish culture.[17] The Diyanet reponded denying any existence of a Alevi religion.[17] 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, a Alevi question was acknowledged.[18]

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][19]

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]

Fatawa 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, under Fondation religieuse islamique turque de Belgique, controls 70 out of the 300 mosques in Belgium and forms the largest network of Muslim communities.[39] 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.[39]


The "Danish Turkish Islamic Foundation" (Danish: Dansk Tyrkisk Islamisk Stiftelse) is part of the Diyanet and is the largest Muslim organisation in Denmark.[40] The Diyanet’s major competing Islamic networks are the Millî Görüş as well as the Alevi association.[40]


The Diyanet controls about 270 mosques in France and pays the salaries of about 150 Turkish imams in the country.[41]


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.[42] The headquarters of DİTİB is the Cologne Central Mosque in Cologne-Ehrenfeld.

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 of 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.[43]


According to Dagens Nyheter in 2017, nine mosques in Sweden have imams sent and paid for by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). 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.[44][43]

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:[45]

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[46] 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]


  1. ^ "Turkey's top religious body to spend $11 billion by 2023". Ahval News. Retrieved 19 August 2020.
  2. ^ Kuruluş ve Tarihçe
  3. ^ Hata Sayfasi. "The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-06-07. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  4. ^ Basic Principles, Aims And Objectives Archived 2011-12-19 at the Wayback Machine, Presidency of Religious Affairs
  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. ^ "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 o 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.
  11. ^ Kisaichi, Masatoshi (2011). Popular Movements and Democratization in the Islamic World. Routledge. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-0415665896.
  12. ^ Jones, Dorian (2005). "Challenging Traditional Gender Roles". DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Pope bans, Turkey allows". Retrieved 2013-09-28.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ a b Farley, Harry (20 July 2016). "Turkey's President Erdogan removes 492 religious staff as he imposes conservative Islam". christian today. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  15. ^ "Pope's speech at Turkey's Diyanet". 2006-11-29. Archived from the original on 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  16. ^ "Who's who in Politics in Turkey" (PDF). Heinrich Böll Stiftung. p. 190. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2019. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  17. ^ a b c Massicard, Élise (2014). "Variations in the Judicialisation of the Alevi Issue. From Turkey to Europe". Revue française de science politique. doi:10.3917/rfsp.644.0711. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ "2006 Mali Yilin Bütçesi" (in Turkish). Alo Maliye. Archived from the original on 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-08-22.
  20. ^ Cornell, Svante E. (2 September 2015). "The Islamization of Turkey: Erdoğan's Education Reforms". Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  21. ^ "Gül first Turkish president to visit Diyanet in 33 years". World Bulletin. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  22. ^ Tremblay, Pinar (April 29, 2015). "Is Erdogan signaling end of secularism in Turkey?". Al Monitor. Archived from the original on 2016-08-08. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  23. ^ "Turkse moskeeën in België gevraagd te spioneren voor Turkse overheid" (in Dutch). Knack. 13 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  24. ^ "Diyanet gathers intelligence on suspected Gülenists via imams in 38 countries". Hürriyet Daily News. 7 December 2016. Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  25. ^ Yücel, Deniz (9 December 2016). "Türkische Imame spionieren in Deutschland für Erdogan". Die Welt (in German). Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  26. ^ Öztürk, Ahmet Erdi. "Does Turkey use 'spying imams' to assert its powers abroad?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  27. ^ "Turkey's religious authority surrenders to political Islam". The Economist. 18 January 2018. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  28. ^ Turkey’s religious authority suggests citizens practice ‘e-fasting’ during Ramadan
  29. ^ Özgenç, Meltem (7 April 2015). "Turkey's top religious body allows toilet paper". hurriyet. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  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.
  32. ^ Tremblay, Pinar (January 15, 2016). "Incest fatwa lands Turkish religious directorate in hot water". al-monitor. Archived from the original on 2016-08-22. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  33. ^ Freedom House, Turkey 2015 Press Freedom report
  34. ^ SPIEGEL, DER. "Türkei spionierte europaweit Gülen-Anhänger aus - DER SPIEGEL - Politik". (in German). Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  35. ^ "Germany Poised to Mount More Raids on Turkish Imams Accused of Spying | Voice of America - English". Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  36. ^ "Turkish imam spy affair in Germany extends across Europe | DW | 16.02.2017". DW.COM. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  37. ^ Doğan, Zülfikar (2017-02-24). "'Spying imams' spark new crisis between Europe, Turkey". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  38. ^ "Turkey's religious authority denies illegal activity by imams in Germany". Retrieved 2020-12-20.
  39. ^ 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.
  40. ^ a b Nielsen, Akgonul & Alibasic 2009, 100.
  41. ^ "Macron's War on Islamists Comes Up Against Erdogan's Soft Power". Retrieved 2020-11-12.
  42. ^ "Old Faultlines". The Economist. 6 August 2016. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  43. ^ a b Öztürk, Ahmet Erdi; Sözeri, Semiha. "Diyanet as a Turkish Foreign Policy Tool: Evidence from the Netherlands and Bulgaria". Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association: 3, 12–13, 15. Archived from the original on 19 September 2018.
  44. ^ "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". DN.SE (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter. 2017-04-01. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  45. ^ Former presidents Archived 2008-04-23 at the Wayback Machine, Presidency of Religious Affairs (in Turkish)
  46. ^ The President of Religious Affairs

External links[edit]