Turkish Head of Religious Affairs Directorate Comments on Halki Theological School

“I believe it doesn’t befit the grandiosity of the civilization we built on this territory for Orthodox citizens to have to send their children to Greece or for Armenian citizens to have to go to Armenia to be educated as clergymen,” says Mehmet Görmez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate in his interview with the Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman.

Noting that he wouldn’t think it proper to base matters pertaining to religion, religious education or human rights on the issue of reciprocity, the spiritual leader added, “the issue of Halki Theological School should be settled by also taking into consideration the opinions of the minority representatives.”

Mehmet Görmez sharply criticized the extremist statements that Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh of Saudi Arabia recently made.

“Non-Muslim communities living in Muslim areas are entrusted to Muslims, and no Muslim has the right nor the authority to betray those entrusted to them,” declared the head of Religious Affairs Directorate in his interview.

In the interview he gave to Today’s Zaman on April 14, Görmez stressed that efforts should be made to eradicate firmly held hatred resulting from Islamophobia and racism and condemned Great Mufti’s “fatwa – a religious order – in March, saying that further church building should be banned and existing Christian houses of worship should be destroyed.”

“Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti reportedly called for the destruction of all churches in the Gulf during a meeting with a delegation from the Kuwait-based Society of the Revival of Islamic Heritage, in response to a query about Shariah law concerning the construction of churches in Muslim countries,” reports the article in the Turkish newspaper.

“Such a statement has nothing to do with Islam’s fundamental sources, with the agreements the Prophet Muhammad signed with non-Muslim groups,” explained Mehmet Görmez, adding that “such a statement is unacceptable, completely lacking any validity in Islam, and could be described as contrary to the fundamental principles of the Prophet.”

He also reminded everyone of Prophet Muhammad’s original words: “Those who persecute non-Muslims living under the authority of Muslims persecute me. And who persecutes me, persecutes Allah.”

According to Görmez, when a church, synagogue or any other place of worship is subject to an act of wrongdoing, Muslims should feel as uncomfortable as they do when confronted with racist remarks written on the walls of mosques.

“This is just the responsibility our belief entrusts to us,” he commented.

The head of the Religious Affairs Directorate complained that “extreme interpretations of Islam have made themselves felt in the West, causing Islam to be misunderstood,” in a call for “well-being of minorities.”


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