Turkey's clergymen move toward recognizing religious equality for women

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 25 May 2002 09:11:09 +0100

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's Muslim clergymen have agreed to let women
attend funerals and prayers alongside men, as well attend mosque during
their menstrual periods — practices that have been forbidden them until
now, reports said Sunday. 

However, Turkey's top clergyman, Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, said the decisions,
taken at a meeting on Saturday, were not binding on the public and that
the believers were free to chose to follow them or not, daily Hurriyet
reported. 

Yilmaz explained that the decisions were binding for the clergymen to
guide the faithful whenever they are asked to comment on those
controversial topics. 

The declaration by the High Religious Affairs Board said there can be no
discrimination between sexes and that women and men were "equal and
complementary beings." 

The state-run board is Turkey's highest religious advisory body and
oversees more than 70,000 mosques in Turkey. 

The decisions are expected to heat up a public debate over the place of
women in religious services. Some women were recently scolded by imams,
or Muslim clergymen, for attempting to attend funeral prayers while some
other clergymen have allowed women to take part in the service. 

Women have been demanding equal religious rights with men, leading many
to question the role of women not only in religion but in daily life in
this pre-dominantly Muslim but secular country which is aspiring for
European Union membership. 

The rulings said women were free to enter mosques and read from the
Koran, Islam's holy book, during their menstrual periods. 

Yasar Nuri Ozturk, one of Turkey's most popular theologians, said women
until now were considered "unclean," during their menstrual period but
the decision has ended that prejudice and discrimination. 

"This is a revolution," Ozturk told the Anatolia news agency. 

In September, the Board decided to take up more controversial questions
such as whether Muslim women can marry non-Muslim men. 

Nearly all Turks are Muslims. Now, both Muslim men and women can marry
non-Muslims, but radical Muslims have been seeking to ban Muslim women
from marrying non-Muslim men. 

Source:  AP

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