Young religious Turks growing skeptical of Islam - Report

"Until recently, I would not even shake hands with men," Merve, a religion elementary school teacher told the BBC. "But now I do not know whether there is a God or not, and I really do not care."

June 10, 2019 05:14
2 minute read.
A Turkish flag, with the New and the Suleymaniye mosques in the background

A Turkish flag, with the New and the Suleymaniye mosques in the background, flies on a passenger ferry in Istanbul, Turkey, April 11, 2019.. (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)


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Young religious people in Turkey are growing skeptical about Islam, according to a report by the BBC.

The number of religious schools in Turkey is 10 times greater than it was in 2003, when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected for his first term. However, according to the BBC, it has become more common for young Turks to question their faith, even though no objective data about the phenomenon is available.

"Until recently, I would not even shake hands with men," Merve, an elementary school teacher that teaches religion told the BBC. "But now I do not know whether there is a God or not, and I really do not care."

Merve explained to the reporter that she used to be a radical believer until she suddenly started to doubt God's existence.

"I thought I would either go crazy or kill myself," she said. "The next day, I realized I had lost my faith."

According to the British public service broadcaster, political and religious leaders in Turkey have recently been debating whether the pious young are moving away from Islam, as well.

"Until recently, I was a sympathizer of radical groups such as the Islamic State or Al Qaeda. Today, I am an atheist," Bekir, a theology student, told the BBC. "I initially wanted to find some logic in Islam, but I could not. Then I started questioning God, too. I used to support the Islamist government here. But oppression breeds revolution. They wanted to oppress us and we started to react."

Anecdotally, many of those who are doubting their faith become atheists, but some are finding new meaning in different philosophical beliefs, such as deism, which maintains the existence of a non-interventionist creator who permits the world to run following natural laws.

"One day, as I was going down the road to the market, I took my headscarf off and never put it back again," Leyla, a college student, told the BBC.

"My father does not know I am a deist," she continued. "If he knew, I fear he might prevent my little sister from having a graduate degree. 'Your sister went to university, and this is what happened to her,' he might say. I didn't ask God to create me, so God cannot ask anything from me in return. I have a right to live as free as a bird."

However, Turkish authorities, including Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz, are formally denying any crisis of faith in the younger generation of conservative Turks, the BBC reported.

Turkey's top religious cleric and head of Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Erbas, told the BBC: "No member of our nation would ever adhere to such a deviant and void concept" as atheism or deism.

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