President of İstanbul’s Assembly of Women’s Associations and an academic at Yeditepe University, Nazan Moroğlu, answered our questions on the disputed proposal of the AKP government for muftis to be given the authority to officially register marriages.
One of the most heated topics of last week in Turkey was the draft proposal for muftis to be given authority for official solemnization. In what ways do you think this proposal is dangerous?
The reason for muftis to be given authority to officially register marriages is said (by government officials) to be in order for citizens to have easy access to marriage procedures and for such procedures to be completed faster. So, what kinds of difficulties were faced by the municipality offices in solemnization procurers that such need (for muftis to be given authority) has emerged? There is no answer for this question. As representatives and members of women’s associations, we want this proposal, which we think will cause major problems especially in regards to women’s rights, to be withdrawn from parliament. Because, first of all, Turkey is a secular state of law and state services and religion services must be separated. The principle of secularism is the most fundamental assurance of women’s rights. Secondly, the rule on the official marriage registration is protected in our Constitution’s 174th article, under the civil code law. Therefore, giving authority to a religion officer to officially carry out marriages is a violation of the Constitution. Another reason for our reaction to this proposed change is the fact that this service, which is normally provided for all citizens, will now be carried out only in consideration of Sunni Muslim citizens, leaving out all other religions and sects in a discriminative way.
According to some views, what is more important is whether the marriage is officially registered or not, rather than who carries out the solemnization. Is that so? Isn’t there a symbolic meaning behind who actually carries out the duty of registering marriages?
It does in fact matter who officially registers marriages. When we look at the latest state of affairs in our country as a whole, we see a reference to religion in all fields of life. The education system’s and the curricula’s shift to a religious shape and the meddling in with women’s lives where even how many children they should bear and even in their laughter are only a few of such examples… In short, we have been becoming a country that has religion as its base. Therefore, who carries out official marriage registration is of course very significant… There is no obstacle for holding a religious marriage ceremony before an imam. Some in public already do this in addition to their official solemnization. However, giving the muftis such authority would harm the secular state of law fundamentally and permanently.
Today, there is a significant increase in the number of people who prefer the marriage ceremonies carried out by imams. So, there are also some who assert that giving authority to muftis will also ensure these kinds of marriages to also get registered officially.
Isn’t the role of the State to teach citizens the fundamental principles of law? The State can actually use many platforms to give information on the current civil code, emphasizing that unofficial marriages will make them unable to practice certain rights… Moreover, there is already a great polarization in our society. Families will now be separated as to whose marriage was registered by a mufti and by a municipality officer… This will have no benefit neither for individuals nor for the society as a whole…
This new authority for the muftis; exclusion of evolution theory in school textbooks; addition of jihad in curricula; the protocol of the Ministry of National Education with Ensar: these are all changes related. How do you see this picture?
The ‘new state’ assertions are actually quite obvious. The AKP member who says ‘we are creating a new state’ is well known. Of course, unless the Constitution is lifted entirely, the secular state of law cannot be abolished. However, the Constitution is getting brought to a point of emptiness. Secular and scientific education is being overlooked… When we look at this picture, societal peace, democracy, secularism, and equality between men and women have been damaged severely. You see that the members of the public are very edgy…
People, especially women, have most often been saying that they are no longer able to ‘dream’. This is something that catches my attention the most.
There had been an improvement regarding women’s rights all across the world after 80’s. And, Turkey had also gone through great progress after having signed the convention for elimination of all sorts of discrimination against women. A ministry on women was created; associations working on women got strengthened; branches in bar associations were established; and, most importantly, academic studies on women were started at universities. These kinds of activities are still being done now but it is not told to the public enough under the current circumstances.
What do you think will happen if the proposal on muftis’ authority to register marriages passes?
There is also still a question mark as to how such authority will be practiced. The institutions currently responsible for these procedures and their implementation are the Interior Ministry. So, if the muftis will now be officially handling marriage registering, how exactly will it be under the supervision of the Ministry? Because, muftis work under and report to the Presidency of Religion Affairs (Diyanet). Even though the mufti’s authority will be ‘official’, will they handle the marriage ceremony in line with official procedures or religious ones? Will they be wearing a religious outfit, for example? Or, since they will be doing it as a public officer, will they appear in something different? Apparently, there will absolutely be some sort of chaos in this regard. Not only that, there is already no need for such thing…
Front-page article of BirGün published on 7 August 2017, Monday with the headline of 'Muftis registering marriages is an obvious violation of the Constitution'