|The Turkish government signaled it would not accept the demands of Alevis, the liberal wing of Islam, who staged a huge rally Sunday to seek basic rights.
Alevis are the second largest religious community in Turkey; although no official statistics are available, it is estimated that 20 million Alevis live in the country.
On Sunday Alevis held the largest rally on the record in Turkey’s capital, Ankara, to demand the abolishment of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the closure of mosques in Alevi villages and the removal compulsory religious courses in schools.
"We do not give credit to such extreme ideas," State Minister Hayati Yazicioglu told reporters on Monday when asked about the demands Alevis raised in the mass rally.
Alevis claim the Directorate of Religious Affairs is conducting missionary activities to assimilate Alevis into Sunnism by posting imams in Alevi populated villages.
Yazicioglu defended the institution saying other Muslim countries send delegations to Turkey to learn more about this directorate.
"We take the problems that our Alevi citizens face seriously, we talk to them and pursue dialogue... We want our citizens with different beliefs to live in this country in peace within their own belief system," he said.