NATO ally Turkey has defiantly responded to a European Court of Human Rights ruling that it must scrap its compulsory religious eduction by imposing mandatory Quran training on its 6-year-olds.
The human rights court, which has jurisdiction over Turkey, ruled in a complaint filed by a Turkish family that the nation must immediately change its policy and allow students to be exempt from the classes without requiring parents to disclose their own religious or philosophical convictions.
Turkey, however, a candidate for membership in the European Union, sees the compulsory religious education as part of its declared policy goal of “raising devout” Muslim “generations.”
The ECHR concluded the Turkish education system was “still inadequately equipped to ensure respect for parents’ convictions’ and violated the ‘right to education,'” Burak Bekdil, a Turkish columnist based in Ankara and a fellow at the Middle East Forum, wrote for the Gatestone Institute.
Instead of following the ECHR ruling, Turkey’s National Education Council, a pro-government teachers’ union, proposed making religion a required course for pre-schoolers.
The union demanded that Turkish children aged 3 to 6 be taught Islam. The government ultimately decided classes should be made compulsory for first, second and third grade students, ages 6 to 8.
“Turkey’s response to the ECHR, which vehemently told Ankara to scrap all compulsory religious education, was to introduce Islamic teachings to six-year-olds,” Bekdil wrote.
The council also suggested that the government kill courses at vocational schools that instruct in the service of alcoholic beverages.
It also was recommended that the Ottoman Turkish language be required.
“Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, abolished the Ottoman language and script in 1928 because only a few Turks, apart from the Ottoman royals and bureaucrats, could speak, read or write that language, a bizarre blend of Turkish with Arabic and Persian. Eighty-six years later, neo-Ottoman Turks wish to revive it in a futile bid: No one knows how many Turks can today speak and teach Ottoman Turkish; but everyone knows there are not more than a few,” the report said.
Even though assessments reveal the dismal state of Turkey’s schools, Bekdil wrote, the government’s answer is more Islam.
“When scientific research told them that there was something seriously wrong with education in Turkey, the government amended laws and regulations to allow the Islamic headscarf on campus; then paved the way for fifth-grade students to attend the religious ‘imam’ schools. In 2001, Turkey had 71,000 students enrolled in the imam schools. Now, there are 670,000.”
The report said Turkey even has tried to enroll Jewish and Christian students in its imam schools.