New Turkish const. will ensure freedom of religion, faith

Turkey’s new constitution will contain the concept of liberal secularism, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a meeting of the provincial heads of the governing Justice and Development (AK) Party in capital Ankara, Davutoglu said that the new constitution would include the elements of liberal secularism “in a way that ensures the freedom of religion and faith.”

"In our new constitution, we will include a sense of secularism that is not authoritarian, but liberal."

"The AK Party is not pursuing anything else in this regard, and we don’t think it is correct to make any speculations regarding this matter,” he said, referring to the recent debates over Parliamentary Speaker Ismail Kahraman’s remarks that secularism “must be removed” from the new constitution that is currently under discussion in Turkey.

The prime minister went on to say that the principle of secularism has always been a part of the AK Party’s statutes, and was also included in the draft constitutions written by the party so far.

“Within this framework, the new constitution will include the principle of secularism in a way that ensures the freedom of religion and faith, and that the government keeps an equal distance from all belief groups,” he said.

Davutoglu also said that the writing process for the new constitution had begun this week, adding that it was based on extensive consultations with academics and opinion leaders, as well as on deliberations within the party.

AK Party spokesman Omer Celik had made a similar announcement late Tuesday saying that his party’s stance and attitude was in favour of “liberal secularism,” which he said was different than “militant secularism.”

Secularism has been enshrined in Turkey’s Constitution since 1924, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk oversaw the founding of the modern republic.

Turkey is currently seeking to replace its Constitution, written after the military coup in the 1980s. However, a parliamentary committee on the matter disbanded in February amid a row over replacing the current parliamentary system with a presidential one.

In comments made Tuesday during a visit to Croatia, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Kahraman had “put forward his own opinions.”

“The state keeps an equal distance from all religions, beliefs and the ways of practicing faiths,” Erdogan said. “This is secularism.”