“Yürekten itaat edeceğim tek bir iktidar var, kendi aklımın kararı, kendi vicdanımın emrettiği.” ~William Godwin

The Association of Atheism: Thousands consult us to get exemption from religion course

16 Kasım 2017

The Association of Atheism: Thousands consult us to get exemption from religion course

The Association of Atheism: Thousands consult us to get exemption from religion course

10th Administrative Court of Istanbul accepted the request of the family that wanted their child to be exempted from compulsory religion class. Zehra Pala, chairperson of the Association of Atheism says: “Thousands of people are consulting us, but they refrain.”

Member of Atheism Association Hakan Dinler won the case he started against the Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge class his daughter was to take in 5th grade. 10th Administrative Court of Istanbul, citing European Human Rights Agreement and the Constitution, requested the exemption of the student from the Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge class. In the verdict it was stated: “… In case the teaching is based on the understanding of a particular religion, it is clear that this cannot be considered as the Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge class and that it becomes religious education.”

Dinler family went to the court with the assistance of Atheism Association. Zehra Pala, chairperson of Atheism Association, says that many families seek assistance for the abolition of compulsory Religion classes. Tuba Torun, lawyer of the Dinler family, says that this case sets a precedent for others. Nejla Kurul, an education expert, states that “Changing this class to elective appears to be a solution at the first glance, and this implies as well that other religions or sects will also have the right to get their own religious education.”

“People consult us for the cancellation of compulsory Religion class”

Zehra Pala, chairperson of Atheism Association, tells that it is a favorable decision concerning basic rights and freedoms and adds that there still are thousands of people who want to go to the court the same way. Pala also says that people refrain from applying in the courts: “One does not need to be an atheist to request this. Everyone who wants the abolition of compulsory religion class need to present a collective case, because it is not something to achieve by suing one by one. The justification behind the court ruling proves that the argument of the National Education Ministry, ‘It is not religious education, it is religious culture and moral knowledge’, is not realistic. Many people consult us about this, and we assure them that they do not stand alone and that they do not need to be afraid, but unfortunately most of them are afraid of the government. They are afraid of losing their jobs or that their children being profiled.”

“More of similar cases will encourage others”

Pala tells about the application process of the Dinler family: “The family who do not want their children to take compulsory religion class reached us. They asked us many times to help them, saying that they will be alone along the case. We fought together to win this case and are happy to have this result. We see that the law prevails even if just a pinch. Normally we were supposed to win this lawsuit as well. When we invite people to bring a suit together, they pull back, but I think as such examples increase in number, they will be more encouraged. The government must obey whatever we have signed below in Human Rights Declaration. The government must respect constitutional order, rule of law, human rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

“This lawsuit qualifies to set a precedent…”

Tuba Torun, Dinler family’s lawyer, says that the court rule may be a precedent for others: “Freedom of religion is a basic right protected by international law and the constitution. In the article 24 of the constitution, that regulates freedom of religion, it mentions teaching of religious culture and moral knowledge. This means an impartial education with respect to all religions and all views. The court rule, after citing ECHR and Constitutional Court decisions, that the present Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge education ‘is not Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge’. Essentially, they emphasize that the standpoint of the present system is not at equal distance to all beliefs. Also in the ruling it is written that it is not right to refuse the request of followers of other religions or of non-believers. The most important thing here is that the basic right of religion needs to be protected in the case of non-believers. This sets a precedent for others. The government may bring this lawsuit to higher court. If it is brought so, the decision of the Council of State will then be a real precedent for all.” 

“We witness the desertification of knowledge domain”

Prof. Nejla Kurul, expert in education, tells that in the schools and educational processes we go through a period of intense Islamisation both in rhetoric and in action: “On one side we have the increase in number and careful proliferation of Imam Hatip Schools, promoted as prime schools and funded by our taxes; on the other side the proliferation of compulsory and elective classes with religious content in the school curricula. Also, religious courses offered by the Directorate of Religious Affairs and by foundations or associations related to the Ministry of National Education have become an essential part of the daily life of children and youth. In Turkey, a secular, democratic and social state of law, the actual situation results in the similarization of education and of culture domains as well as in the removal of various ways of subjectivation. Although schools need to offer children and youth a rich banquet of knowledge for a meaningful life, we witness a collapse and desertification of the domain of knowledge in the educational programs”  

 “Religion classes objectify students”

 “Another aspect of this is the compulsion of Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge class” says Kurul, and continues: “The reason for this is the presence of similarizing, authoritarian and totalitarian educational policies instead of a pluralist social approach. This tendency is clearly visible in other domains as well. As a result, human rights violations caused by compulsory religion education and the resistance against them turns out to be a political issue. The decision taken by the Administrative Court and the statement ‘The curriculum must be pluralist and objective. The state must stay impartial to the religions and needs to consider them all as equivalent.’ is beyond the actual patronizing stance and has a progressive side. The government’s imposition of a frame about how people should practice their religion through religion classes is problematic not only for citizens who live their lives independent of the Sunni interpretation of Islam, but also for those who practice it. Therefore, it creates problems for both sides, because it objectifies students and aims to change them out of their own will.”

“It is impossible to consider the society as a solid unit”

Kurul states that the religion education application is wrong and points out that there are several societies in Turkey: “It is impossible to consider the society as an indivisible, solid unit. The society, by itself, requires variety. Its different colors and plurality are qualities that define itself. Therefore compulsory, similarizing religion classes are wrong. ECHR and Regional Court express this fallacy. Normally those who want this class should have needed to apply for it, but it became the opposite, those who do not want it needed to apply to the court. Offering this class as an elective appears to be a solution at the first glance, and it also creates opportunity for the education of other religions and sects. On the other side, whatever is offered as a ‘class’ risks losing its value and meaning. There are ample sources of knowledge for those who want to learn, to gain experience, or to improve themselves in any subject – like Islam. People who want to practice their religion in their daily life will find ways to do so.”

Abstract from the decision…

In the decision, taken in consensus by the 10th Administrative Court of Istanbul, it was stated: “There is no doubt that the teaching of culture of religion and morals is among the compulsory classes thought in middle and high schools according to the article 24 of the Constitution. However, this teaching needs to comply the objectives provided by the Constitution, must have an objective and pluralist content, must not make one’s religion as a discrimination or equality factor and should consider all religious beliefs equivalent, impartial to all religions. In case the curriculum of the teaching is based on a particular religious understanding, it clearly may not be accepted as ‘Culture of Religion and Moral Knowledge’ class and will become ‘religious education’”

Interpreter is Ç.Ş.

Source: https://www.gazeteduvar.com.tr/gundem/2017/11/15/atezim-dernegi-binlerce-kisi-din-dersinden-muaf-olmak-icin-bize-basvuruyor/