Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman unexpectedly sparked controversy in Turkey when on April 25 he declared that Turkey’s new constitution should forgo mention of “secularism” and instead be a “religious constitution” referencing God. His words reignited Turkey’s always tense “secularism debate,” which has been amplified since 2002 when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power. Kahraman's remarks led to protests in a number of cities, a call by the main opposition leader for him to resign and allegations by secular pundits that the Speaker had shown the AKP’s “true face,” its “real intentions.”
Because Kahraman is a known confidant of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, many also suspected that his statement was part of a scheme being orchestrated by Turkey's leader.
In the next two days, however, the major figures in the AKP disowned Kahraman’s position on a “religious constitution.” The AKP’s Mustafa Sentop, chairman of parliament's constitutional commission, said that Kahraman’s view was not a “party stance” and that “secularism is preserved in our constitutional draft.” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asserted, “In the new constitution that we are preparing, the principle of secularism will be included.” He added that it would be a “liberal interpretation” of secularism, not an “authoritarian” version. In also addressing the controversy, Erdogan not only professed support for secularism, but even offered an inspired defense of the principle. READ MORE