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    Turkish FM draws rebuke over religion remarks

    Hurriyet English
    30.05.2008 - 11:18 | Son Güncelleme:

    Turkish politicians, including MPs from the ruling AKP and experts slammed Foreign Minister Ali Babacan for his remarks over the religious freedom of the Muslim majority, saying such policies drag the country into conflict.

    Babacan has said Wednesday not only non-Muslim minorities in Turkey had problems regarding religious freedoms, but the Muslim majority experienced similar problems as well. His remarks sparked a strong reaction in Turkey; some commentators even suggested he should resign.


    Reha Camuroglu, an MP from AKP, told Hurriyet he is "sick and tired of policies over beliefs," adding such debates are likely to spark new conflicts in Turkey. "I don't think people are having difficulties in practicing their beliefs except some problems that could be solved in time," Camuroglu, an Alevi, added.


    Alevis are the second largest religious community in Turkey, although there is no official statistics available. The Alevis' interpretation of Islam differs from Sunnis, such as they pray in assembly houses (cemevi), not in mosques. Alevis demand equal treatment with Sunnism and to be recognized as a unique faith allowing free religious expression.


    Another MP from AKP, who declined to be named, said Muslims face no difficulties in practicing their religion. "Turkey is the only country in which Muslims can practice their religion in the broadest and perfect way in the Islamic world," he added.


    Opposition parties harshly criticized Babacan. Turkey's leftist main opposition CHP's MP, Atilla Kart said Babacan's remarks are proof of the AKP's intention to place religious figures in the state organs and administration.


    Mehmet Sandir, an MP from the nationalist MHP, said it is the government’s duty to resolve the issue raised by Babacan, if there is one. "We, as the MHP, say there are problems regarding freedom in Turkey. We want Turkey to be a freer and more democratic nation without making any discrimination to Muslims or non-Muslims," he said.


    Photo: AA

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