Hürriyet Daily News Interview: Turkish author challenges ‘pseudo-Islamic’ beliefs

Interview: ŞEHRİBAN OĞHAN ,  7/2/2010

An Ankara theologian has harsh words in his new book for Muslims who misuse religious marriages or make wishes at ‘pagan’ shrines.

An Ankara theologian has harsh words in his new book for Muslims who misuse religious marriages, make wishes at “pagan” shrines or believe simply following the “five pillars” of Islam is enough to be a good believer.
“I believe there are many convictions that need to be shaken in Islam,” Professor Hayri Kırbaşoğlu, a member of the academic staff at Ankara University’s Theology Faculty, told daily Hürriyet in an interview published last week.

Kırbaşoğlu, the author of “Ahir Zaman İlmihali,” said he had read all the religious texts available in bookstores and claimed that most of them take the “five conditions of Islam” as their centerpiece, something he called a false conviction based on misunderstanding and mistaken translation.

“There is a belief that it is enough to fulfill those five conditions in order to be a Muslim,” Kırbaşoğlu said. “[But the Hadith] does not say ‘condition.’ It says Islam is based on five principles. Praying is a principle of Islam; does that mean that not drinking, not stealing and not killing are not conditions of Islam?”

Muslims in Turkey mix their religion with paganism, Kırbaşoğlu said, adding that the culture of expecting miracles and visiting shrines is in stark contradiction to Islamic tenets. “There is a place called the ‘Devil’s Table’ near the Aegean town of Ayvalık. They circled it with an iron fence. Religious women go there to make a wish. To whom do they make that wish? To the devil’s footprint,” he said. “We need new generations of Muslims who take the Quran and the life of the Prophet as the centerpiece.”

The professor also criticized what he called “malpractice” of Islam pertaining to relationships, saying that cheating on one’s spouse has become so glamorized that “the pious try to do the same under the name of religious marriage.”

In Turkey, marriages are performed by the state and religious ceremonies conducted by an imam are considered invalid officially, but couples prefer to have both kinds of ceremonies. Others have used religious ceremonies to “marry” someone they want to be involved with when they already have a wife.

“There is no Islamic explanation for betrayal. No one forces you to marry. If you can’t make the marriage work, there is divorce,” Kırbaşoğlu said. “I believe religious marriage should be abolished.”

The professor said the civil servant who marries couples should provide them with a prayer after the end of the official ceremony, saying that the mentioning of religious values during the official ceremony would be enough and would therefore help avoid the exploitation of religious marriages.

Noting that Islam attributes a positive value to sex between married couples, Kırbaşoğlu said, “The fact that sexuality is perceived as a taboo does not stem from Islam, but from tradition,” adding that the religion offers some advise “to show the necessary attention to have mutual sexual satisfaction.”

The professor complained, however, about over-sexualization in the media, which he said uses sex to gain ratings. “Even on the Islamic TV channels, women are seen as objects,” he said, adding that he solicited the views of female religious scholars for his book.

Kırbaşoğlu also spoke out against religious communities that he said “aspire to become a separate religion,” with adherents only reading books written by their leaders.

“Each has a holy book, separate from the Quran. When a brotherhood prepares a book, they print 40,000 or 50,000 copies,” he said. “Because all the members of the brotherhood have to buy it. These groups make people slaves. They do not liberate them.”