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Diyanet sanctions imam for refusing to take congregation to Erdoğan rally

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Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) has reassigned and temporarily halted any possibility of promotion or pay increase for an imam for refusing to bring his congregation to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election rally in April of last year, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Yusuf Kılıç, an imam who was working in the western city of İzmir, underwent an administrative investigation and was the subject of verbal threats after refusing to facilitate the attendance of his congregation at Erdoğan’s İzmir rally during his campaign for re-election as president.

As a result of the investigation, he was reassigned to a post outside İzmir with a temporary interruption in promotions and pay increases, an administrative measure with negative implications for career advancement.

Kılıç had announced that he was contacted by a local bureau of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of Erdoğan’s İzmir rally on April 29 and was asked to ensure the participation of his congregation.

“If I take part of my community to rallies, I would be violating what my mosque stands for,” he had said.

The Diyanet, Turkey’s government agency for regulating religious affairs, is often criticized for its lack of independence from political influence and for instrumentalizing Friday sermons to advance government narratives.

It is also criticized for excluding religious minorities such as the Alevis, despite being funded by taxpayers from all faiths.

As with all government institutions, the Diyanet underwent major purges of non-loyalist employees following a failed military coup in July 2016.

Benefiting from a bigger budget than most government agencies, it also operates a sizeable network of mosques in Western Europe that has been accused of spying on government critics living among diaspora communities.

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