News / Europe

In Turkey, Religious Schools Gain a Foothold

Turkish girls attend computer lessons at Kazim Karabekir Girls' Imam-Hatip School, Istanbul, February 10, 2010.
Turkish girls attend computer lessons at Kazim Karabekir Girls' Imam-Hatip School, Istanbul, February 10, 2010.
Dorian Jones
As parents wait to collect their children from Mehmet Akif Middle School, one father appears deeply concerned. Recent announcements regarding newly Islamized curricula — ostensibly for training imams and other clerics — caught many parents by surprise.
 
"They will say, 'put a headscarf on your child,' and she'll have to wear a longer dress. They will try to bring more backwardness into their lives. Nobody wants this," he says. "We want our children to be educated following the principles of secularism. Until now it was like this and we were happy."
 
Converting schools into religious institutions known as Imam Hatips is part of the Islamist-rooted government's education reforms, which, according to some parents, represent a welcome change.
 
"We are a Muslim country and Imam Hatips are for teaching our religion," says one mother donning a headscarf in accordance with her faith. "It is important for my child. I want my child to learn his religion. All this criticism is an exaggeration because we are a Muslim country, so religion must be in our education."
 
Imam Hatips like this one, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's alma mater and one of the oldest in Istanbul, were founded to teach imams. But the new curriculum, which combines normal education with hours of religious studies, are popular with Turkey's religious population.
 
Combining Quran recital class with the normal curriculum means an arduous workload for the children, but teacher Azmi Dogan says Imam Hatips play an important role in Turkey's pious community.
 
"Every child who leaves here is qualified to become an imam or a religious official," he says, explaining that students are exposed to every field of Islamic study, from scriptural interpretation to the prophet's words. "For the pupils this is not a problem, as their parents want their children brought up like this."
 
A lengthy debate

Since their creation in the 1950s, Imam Hatips have been controversial in the debate about Turkey's secular state, and many were shut down as part of the pro-secular, military-inspired crackdown on the country's Islamist movement in the 1990's.
 
Turkey's ruling party pushed through the school reform act earlier this year to allow schools to specialize in religious education combined with a modern curriculum, provoking arguments in parliament and mass protests by secular Turks and teachers who say the law promotes an Islamist agenda and threaten education standards.
 
But Kenan Cayir, assistant professor of sociology at Istanbul's Bilgi University, says the schools can have a positive impact.
 
"They promote an understanding that religion does not necessarily conflict with modernity, so religion and modernity can be together," he says. "This is very controversial in Turkey, because in the secular-civilization narrative it is argued that religion does necessarily conflict with modernity, so we have to leave religion behind."
 
The Islamist-rooted government officials say expansion of Imam Hatips is about restoring schools that were closed in the 1990s, a claim that has done little to curtail growing anger among some parents.
 
At one protest outside of a newly converted school, parents claim the government is imposing the schools on their children. Ali Boga, a member of parliament for the ruling AK party, describes expansion of Imam Hatips as the beginning of a broader movement.
 
"We are here as Imam Hatip graduates or as allies," says Boga. "We will increase the number of these schools in records. We have the chance to turn all schools into Imam Hatip schools."
 
The government hasn't denied has such plans. Instead, Prime Minister Erdogan has slammed critics of schools while his education minister said opponents of reforms were either terrorist supporters or fanatical secularists.
 
The debate indicates that education could become another battleground in the increasingly polarized country.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Worry from: U.S.
September 28, 2012 4:05 AM
Prime Minister Erdogan's reaction to criticism on the subject speaks volumes.


by: john from: german
September 26, 2012 11:18 PM
the Turkey is taking his country and people backward to slavery society. Everybody knows that islam conflict with modernity, it will make people ignorance and ruin democracy in those countires. I'm afraid the result of religious enforcement education will get Turkey step into the situation of some islam countires like Syria, Mali, Iran etc.


by: Turkish American from: NJ
September 26, 2012 3:56 PM
To compare Gulen schools to Hitler Youth Movement is reproachable. Are you comparing Gulen to Hitler. He is a peace advocator. My "secular' friends have their children enrolled in one of the schools in the U.S. and they are very happy compared to the public school alternatives. The curriculum is strong and the school environment is one where they don't have to worry about their children getting involved with drugs, gangs, alcohol.


by: TurkishAmerican from: NYC
September 26, 2012 1:52 AM
Tl-his is another school operated by the Gulen Movement which is the AKP party in Turkey. They have schools all over the world including many charter schools in the USA, where American children are learning Turkish culture at American taxpayer expense.
If the parents are concerned.......they should be. Remember Hitler youth movement. but this is bigger and much more wider. http://www.gulencharterschools.weebly.com

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid