Increasingly powerful mosques played key role in quick reaction to attempted coup in Turkey

by WorldTribune Staff, July 31, 2016

The powerful imams in Turkey’s 85,000 mosques played a major role in thwarting the attempt to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and in so doing unleashed attacks on Christian places of worship, reports say.

After the coup was launched on July 15, the imams echoed Erdogan’s call for Turkey’s Muslims to take to the streets and defend the president.

Pro-government protesters stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara on July 16. /Reuters
Pro-government protesters stand on a Turkish army tank in Ankara on July 16. /Reuters

Some 240 people, including those from both sides of the coup, died and 1,400 were injured. Christians are pointing to a transformation in the political cultural character of Turkey under Erdogan’s Islamist path to power.

“The reality is that Turkey is neither a democracy nor a secular republic,” said Yuce Kabakci, a pastor in Istanbul. “There is no division between government affairs and religious affairs.”

Gangs chanting “Allahu akbar” smashed the glass frontage of a Protestant church in Matalya, the UK’s Express reported. “The attack on the church was light. But it’s significant that it was the only shopfront attack in those three days,” said the church’s minister, Pastor Tim Stone. “We were the only targets.”

Protestants are not allowed to build churches in Turkey. Even the name church must be coupled to the non-threatening “association.”

In the Black Sea city of Trabzon, the Santa Maria church was hit as, under the guise of an anti-coup protest, demonstrators smashed windows and used hammers to break down the church’s door.

Turkey, which once boasted two million Christians, has barely 120,000 remaining, fewer than Iran.

“There’s is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation,” Kabakci said. “Even the educated classes here don’t associate personally with Jews or Christians. It’s more than suspicion. It’s a case of ‘let’s get rid of anyone who isn’t Sunni.’ ”

Ihsan Ozbek, chairman of the association of Protestant churches said “things got better in 2008, but that was when Turkey thought it would join the EU. Now intolerance is growing once more.

“Erdogan thinks he is the father of the nation. As a father he thinks he is protecting his children by being firm with them.”

An Iranian in Istanbul told the Express that “Turkey is like Iran in 1975. I’m sure we will see it become an Islamic Republic very soon. But Erdogan is clever. He will survive.”

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