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Cablegate: Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate Posts

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DE RUEHAK #1043/01 1570628
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 050628Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6471
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 4298
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RUEUITH/ODC ANKARA TU
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RUEUITH/TLO ANKARA TU
RUEHAK/USDAO ANKARA TU

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001043

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY'S RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS DIRECTORATE POSTS
"PROPER" CONDUCT GUIDANCE


1. (U) Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate's (Diyanet)
guidance on "appropriate" conduct for Muslims, posted on its
website, is generating considerable debate, particularly
proscriptions governing "sexual life." The list attracted
attention during a May Provincial Muftis Conference; Radikal
daily and several women's groups criticized warnings against
women and men remaining alone together, women wearing perfume
and dating as increasing discrimination and violence against
women. Diyanet officials claim the information was taken out
of context and is part of a broader catechism that has been
on the website since 2006 and published in books since 2002.

2. (U) According to the Diyanet guidance, women must be
particularly careful because they have "sexual stimulants"
that can arouse strangers. They should cover themselves when
they go out, be serious and modest when talking to strangers
and not wear perfume outside their homes. Failure to do so
constitutes "immoral" behavior, contrary to the Prophet
Mohammed's teachings. Dating before marriage constitutes
adultery and a woman should not travel alone or remain alone
in a closed place with a strange man; otherwise, Satan will
join them, resulting in adultery or gossip that might damage
their chastity. Radikal reported that some books published
by the Diyanet Foundation claim shaking hands with the
opposite sex, co-education and dating lead to sexual
perversion. Diyanet officials distanced themselves from the
charge, stating each publishing house is individually
responsible for content.

3. (U) Diyanet Chief, Professor Ali Bardakoglu, backpedaled
when asked about the guidance, stating a relationship between
unmarried people is not adultery but is also not something
permitted by Islam, either. "Our religion encourages seeing
each other before marriage. What has been banned is for
unmarried couples to exceed the restrictions imposed by Islam
on being together," he explained. The Diyanet guidance is
not a fatwa, Bardakoglu emphasized. State Minister Sait
Yazicioglu also stressed that "interpretations" should not be
regarded as requirements of Islam; some provisions are
unquestionable but many other aspects could be interpreted in
different ways. Applying ancient interpretations to today's
conditions would lead to problems, he added.

4. (U) Several women's groups objected to the guidance as
justifying sexual harassment by portraying women as
provocateurs, and discouraging women from working outside the
home. "These explanations work directly towards deepening
sexual inequality; they become part of the discrimination
against women," commented Kizbes Aydin, head of the Women's
Culture House Association. The Diyanet influences how men
and women think and behave; Diyanet comments are accepted
without debate, Zozan Ozgokce of the Van Women's Association
explained. Ozgokce views the guidance as an obstacle,
preventing things from changing. She noted that women in Van
do not sit on bus seats vacated by men until the man's warmth
has dissipated because of a similar warning. Muftus' words
are taken very seriously, therefore they should comment about
universal issues rather than specific behavior, she said.
Aysegul Kanat, a women's activist, agreed, calling the
guidance very dangerous. People see them as scientifically
proven information and they create pressure on women to
conform, she said.

5. (SBU) Comment. In Turkey's polarized political
atmosphere, such "religious edicts" deepen the concerns of
those Turks wary of the ruling Justice and Development
Party's (AKP) pro-Islam roots. Two other recent incidents
piqued suspicions as well: an Ankara University rowing team,
in Sapanca (near Istanbul) for a championship race, was
attacked May 31 by locals for wearing shorts and tights, and
lingerie shops in Malatya reportedly received threat letters
warning them to remove lingerie from store windows because
the displays violate Turkey's ethical principles. Pious
Turks complain they cannot live their religion openly; the
ban on headscarves in state offices and universities is one
example. At the same time, media reports of pressure to
comply with Islamic precepts inflame fears that less pious
Turks risk being forced to be publicly observant. End
comment.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at

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http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/Portal:Turk ey

WILSON

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