One of the most criticized heads of Turkey’s Presidency of Religion Affairs (Diyanet), Mehmet Görmez, has recently retired from his position.
When the most scandalous and disputed incidents and moments of the 7 years long duty of Görmez as the head of Diyanet are remembered, it also looks like a ‘short summary of Islamization of Turkey’, where the government officials have excessively exploited state funds; oppressed the opposition and polarized the country with religious connotations; and, regressed in terms of respecting people's rights and freedoms.
A few of the scandalous affairs and statements of the Diyanet under Görmez is as the following:
1 million liras worth of armored car as a gift of 'state'
The 1 million liras worth of armored Mercedes car of Görmez, which was presented to him as a gift by then PM Erdoğan, had been talked about a lot at that time. While the actual cost of the car had been tried to be kept secret for a long time as Erdoğan had claimed it to be 330 thousand liras, it was eventually revealed that the actual worth was over 1 million TL.
As questionings regarding the cost of his car continued for a while, Görmez had asserted that the car was not armored and said he was going to ‘return the car just to set it as an example for the others’. Having claimed that the arguments about the car had turned the car into a ‘grave for him’, Görmez had promised to not get in it ever again. However, as Erdoğan intervened, Görmez used that same car again, until he left office.
Defamation of the people in opposition
Görmez is also remembered for his false statements dduring the Gezi Park protests of 2013. During the nationwide protests, Görmez had backed the false claims of Erdoğan and claimed that protesters in İstanbul who entered the Dolmabahçe Mosque ‘drank alcohol inside’ and ‘did things that could not be accepted by any Muslim’.
Fatwa on a father's desire for his daughter
It was during the term of Görmez that Diyanet’s ‘fatwa branch’ published an answer on its official website to a question of ‘whether a father’s desire for his daughter would cause his wedding oath to her mother to become invalid’ or not. Instead of leaving such question unanswered or complaining about it, the officials of Diyanet had given the following reply: ‘If the father kisses or hugs his daughter with lust, that has no impact on the wedding oath with the mother. It is not a sin for a father to hold his daughter while she has thick layers of clothings on or to think about her body in lust. Also, the daughter has to be older than 9’.
Neglect of children abused by institutions claimed to be 'conservative'
As the fatwa of the Diyanet received great reaction from the public and the opposition members in the parliament, first, the scandolous comment was erased, and, then, the whold website was closed down. And, in its official statement, the Diyanet said the reports about it were not ‘true’.
Görmez had also delivered a speech at a major convention of the Ensar Foundation, which is an NGO where a teacher was revealed to have molested at least 40 children. Overlooking the role of the management of the foundation in the neglect of children staying at their dormitories, Görmez even gave a statement about child abuse and said: “We have been talking about child abuse in this country for the past month. And, this is making all of us ashamed of ourselves”.
At one time, the former PM Ahmet Davutoğlu had claimed that Görmez had become the ‘subject of certain groups, such as the Fethullah Gülen community’.
In his latest speech delivered on Tuesday (August 1), Görmez asked for everyone’s blessings and stated that he extends his blessings to all. ‘Bringing the Islamophobia that has occupied the West will be the greatest goal of the new Diyanet’, Görmez said in his concluding remarks.
Front-page article of BirGün published on 2 August 2017, Wednesday with the headline of 'The 7 years long term of Görmez is like a summary of state of affairs in the country'