Religion in Turkey

Walking around Istanbul I began to get the impressions that there was not a high degree of religiosity. There are some women in ha-jib, but a small percentage; otherwise it’s just head scarves if not just plain western dress.  Despite the dominance of the skyline in some areas by minarets and the very loud andcalls to prayer five times a day from more than one mosque at the same time, I did not observe an influx of people heading to the mosques.

I was surprised, given the success of the AKP, an Islamic party although officially secular as the law prohibits religious parties.  Even the AKP is pro-Western and pro-American.  However they support the Muslim Brotherhood and have been behind efforts to allow women to wear scarves in the public schools- prohibited since the time of Ataturk.

Gallup’s 2012 survey supports my impression: 23% of Turks are religious, 73% are irreligious and 2% are Atheists (not sure what happened to the other 2%).  By ‘irreligious’ I mean that religion is not important to these people but they are not (at least openly) convinced atheists.   I think Gallup and others mean by ‘atheist’ that you are certain there are no deities.   Atheists do not all assert this, but rather that say that the evidence for deities is absent and that condition is unlikely to ever change.

The 75%/23% is a far greater spread than one might expect given that some 95% of the population is officially Muslim.  I learned that they are registered as Muslim at birth, and must be so registered, unless their parents can show they have another religion.  This is an intrusion into one’s personal affairs we do not tolerate in the rest of the western world (although there are intrusions, they are of a different sort).

I do not have a sense of where Turkey is headed.  The continued success of the AKP is worrisome-  they have been in power since the early part of this century.

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