The debate of ‘religious/atheist’ which has entered Turkey’s agenda by the speech of Prime Minister Erdoğan, has reached the history of İmam Hatip Schools.CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu response, that İmam Hatip Schools were established by them, was, as an answer to AK Party to prove that the CHP would never stay behind AK Party in this issue.
Kılıçdaroğlu stated that while raising the religious generations, explained their difference from the conservative parties as ‘they haven’t abused the issue’. The statement of ‘to abuse’ can be used by the number of politicians against each other, such accusations have no analytical value. There is no objective measure of proving who is doing what by how much believing in, even by regarding the political benefit that he has gained. As all political actions are directed to provide a benefit in essence, the provided advantages being regarded as a subject of accusation are means of superficiality. It would be necessary to see the big Picture of if CHP really intended to raise religious generations by establishing İmam Hatip Schools. In fact, as Kılıçdaroğlu has mentioned, İmam Hatip Schools and the first of Seminaries, which has reached the number of 30, were established by CHP in 1949. In fact, those schools were established for a reason and by the same CHP they were shut down in 1933. When we analyse why CHP decided to shut down and re-open those schools closely it is seen clearly that CHP has never had a positive perspective towards the religion matter.
Essentially, the strategic objective of CHP’s religion policy, is the complete erasure of religion from social life, and as for the individual life areas (between God and the servant, in other words in ‘conscious’ matter) would lose its effect completely in time. Today, when such determination is stated as if CHP is seriously accused, but we should never forget that when CHP was in power, there were a positivism ideology dominated all over the world, and CHP members were fully supported that ideology. That ideology regarded religion as an entire superstition and invented beliefs and advocated that it would have no leg to stand on in the face of science. It was CHP’s policy to assist the removal of religion in face of the ‘enlightened development’ of science. For realizing this ideology, the institutional entity of religion should have been weakening. The very first step of this, was the elimination of the representatives of official/institutions of religion.
In the meantime, the attributions as if praising the discourses of ‘our religion is based on logic, it is anti- rhetorical and anticlerical’ were placed as they were helping to construct that policy. In 1933, letter revolution had already been made; the social rank of scholars had already been discredited. The law of unification of education policy and the changes in law restricted the working area of scholars, by excessive emphasis on the positivist discourses, religion had been pushed out of the entire field of life. Before the Seminaries and İmam Hatip Schools were officially shut down, they had been disfavoured for a student to demand. All remained was to lock the gates.
It was CHP, who deemed proper to Turkey in which no religious education was given for 20 years. Why did the same CHP decide to open those schools again? The answer to that question was in the 7th general assembly of CHP in 1947. In that assembly, CHP decided to listen to the voice of public for the first time after transition into multi-party system, regarded the approaching will of public as a threat. Re-opening those schools were just an item within the bundle of measures against the danger of possible public revolution.
Another factor that convinced CHP was the perception of threat of religion was getting stronger within the opposition just the contrary to the positivist approach which envisaged that religion would be disappeared. Because, it provided anxiety that, religion was getting ‘uncontrollable’ within the society by being interpreted from the point of views of people. Public began to train their own staff according to meet their own needs but it was also a serious problem for the young nation-state that was in need of controlling everything. So, CHP convinced the oppositions within its body for reason of opening these schools was to train ‘enlightened clerics’.
This “enlightened clerics” as stated in both Congress and Parliamentary proceedings, would be those who regard religion as a superstition and would enlighten the public about the realities of religion “philosophers or sociologists of religion” .
In fact, CHP was asking impossible in practice, because they understood neither the nature of religion nor the society. Indeed, both the development of Diyanet and schools realized according to the decisions between the demands of a state transferred into somehow democracy and public as a subject to a dialectic rule. Today, to study neither in these schoos nor in Diyanet is independent from that dialectic.
Within this debate, Prime Minister Erdogan’s words; ‘to train pious generations’ requires another assessment. Democratic state cannot have such a mission. Because we’re not talking about raising our own children, but children of other parents’ who may have different preferences. The mission of the democratic state is to provide opportunities and freedom for citizens wishing to raise religious children (or otherwise). If the public is religious, they would prefer to raise their children as religious, if not, they wouldn’t. The task of the state might be simplifying the way of the citizen’s preferences in this direction.
Other issues that might be considered as parts of the discussion of raising the next generation were the debates of the May 19 ceremonies, the National Security courses, oath (that is read by the primary school students every day before going into their classes) and address to the youth.
Until this time, there had neither been a criticism nor opposition about the May 19 ceremonies and National Security lessons. In fact, we shouldn’t forget the initiative of Young civilians “rescuing May 19 from the stadiums “. They brought up the issue with very nice, stylish actions. But that never turned into a request that could put a strain on the government. As for the other, about six years ago the Chairman of Teacher-Union, Yusuf Tanrıverdi’s report on “education system within the grip of the official ideology’’ might be given as an example. Tanriverdi had been tried for a long time because of his report touching on the National Security and our oath; his association came to the brink of shutting down. But there still had not been a observed widespread opposition to the National Security lessons. Yet, when these courses were removed, even all democratic fronts allied in how important it is to resolve the effects of militarism and they all agreed that it was even a delayed decision.
However, opposition to religious education has got a much greater prevalence; there has been a severe pressure for the elimination of religious instruction. But as the government is not in hurry about it, their strategy on this issue is not clear as well.
Of course this attitude of the government deserves a separate analysis and criticism. But here, there occurs the question of why all these radical criticism towards religion lessons haven’t been done for National Security, the history of reforms, in general history courses so far? In fact contents of almost all National Education lessons are ideological. Our children are given an utterly surreal history perception. This surrealism continues with mythological discourses of our “superiority” than other nations. a vengeance not so much a radical of religious education classes until now the, that were spared, even in general have to ask why all the? In fact, an ideological. In addition rhetoric has been spewed of how much other nations are “bad” and “treacherous”, “vile” whereas our “self-love” and “insulting others” are thought in classes. All of these lessons undoubtedly are “mandatory” and so far they hadn’t been a subject of a serious criticism, so isn’t it ironic that the religion lesson has been in the firing line up until now?
Don’t let it be misunderstood, I haven’t given up my thought of a course given as “mandatory” wouldn’t be appropriate for Muslim approach. No one or no one’s child shall be imposed on the Islamic religion. So at the prospect, in case of the religion lessons became mandatory, a person having the sensitiveness of Islamic belief would never approve it full heartedly. Islamic ethics shall not be given of in such a course to anyone. Educating style of the course violates even the most basic principle of Islam: No compulsion in religion. Compulsion is the greatest immortality. There is no doubt about it. It is clear, the current situation needs to be criticized but although the other lessons needs to be opposed as they cause personality degeneration and chauvinism, it is needed to be clarified that why they still haven’t been opposed until now.
Moreover, even it is not in the agenda, government has taken a step forward in this issue, does it show that they don’t need the opinion of intellectuals or public? If so is it a good thing?
At least, it is promising to see that the process is improving. There is no question that, these decisions are beneficial steps that can easily be added into the democratization process.