Muslims Protest Overhaul of Religion Teacher Training

Istanbul, Turkey - Turkey's Muslim teachers and academics have levelled criticism at sweeping plans to modify university programmes for those training to be religion teachers in the nation's primary schools. The changes include removing a number of Islamic courses and reducing the number of Arabic language lessons, replacing these with compulsory philosophy, sociology, music, computer, Christianity and missionary courses.

Saban Abak, member of the board of the Egitim-Bir, a conservative union of teachers, criticised the changes to the theology teacher-training system recently announced by the Turkish Higher Board of Education (YOK). "YOK has added to its games a new one," he told Adnkronos International (AKI).

YOK decided on Tuesday to abolish Hadith (the sayings of Prophet Mohammed), Kelam (Islamic philosophy), Tafsir (interpretation of the Koran), Siyer (Life of the Prophet Mohammed) and Islamic Law courses. It is a semi-autonomous and strictly secular board that regulates universities in Turkey

"First, it removed the religious teacher training departments from theology faculties. Then it decreased the student quota at some theology faculties," he continued. "Now it has delivered a fatal blow to theology faculties. I think YOK has a big problem with Islam”, Abak added.

YOK previously banned the wearing of the headscarf at universities, even for students attending classes on the Koran. It also tranferred ‘religion teacher’ training departments from theology to education faculties. "YOK is politically motivated and took these decisions to oppose the government," said Abak.

YOK has held many meeting with Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamic rooted government many times since his conservative, Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to power in 2002.

Hayrettin Karaman, a prominent professor of Islamic law and and a columnist on Yeni Safak, a Turkish daily that is close to Erdogan’s government, commented that there was no need for YOk's latest changes. “YOK's actions are well-known method of creating a conformist, monotype society. They want to dictate their ideology to others”, he wrote.