Turkey PM says draft constitution will guarantee secularism

Ahmet Davutoglu

Ahmet Davutoglu

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Wednesday pledged that Turkey’s draft constitution would guarantee secularism after calls for a religious charter sparked controversy in the predominantly-Muslim country.

“Secularism will feature in the new constitution we draft as a principle that guarantees citizens’ freedom of religion and faith and that ensures the state is at an equal distance from all faith groups,” Davutoglu said in a televised speech.

The prime minister said that Turkey’s secular and democratic character was “not up for debate” under the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002.

Parliament speaker Ismail Kahraman on Monday said the country “must have a religious constitution”, setting off alarms bells that the AKP government is seeking to Islamise the traditionally secular country.

The call sparked protests on Tuesday in major cities where police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse demonstrators in Ankara and Istanbul.

Kahraman’s comments also drew adverse reaction from opposition parties, prompting the speaker to release a statement saying that he had been expressing his own opinion, not that of his party.

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