“I can’t accept Alevi children being forced to say Muslim prayers at school”

“I can’t accept Alevi children being forced to say Muslim prayers at school”

Ali Kenanoglu is director of the Alevi Cultural Centre in the northern Turkish city of Huybar. He has participated in these recent protests.

If parents refuse to let their child be enrolled in the local Imam Hatip school, then they have to send their child to a school much farther away or pay tuition at a private school [Editor’s note: School fees can reach up to 15,000 Turkish livres, or 8,000 euros, per year]. Basically, this means that families who don’t have much money are forced to accept their child’s placement. For me, what’s going on is very clear. President Erdogan [Editor’s note: Elected in August, moderate Islamist Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously been prime minister since 2003] wants to create a generation of young believers who will all follow the principles of Sunni Islam. But Alevi beliefs have nothing to do with those beliefs.

Turkey’s schools are becoming Islamised. Now, in public schools, there are small prayer rooms. The school curriculum is steeped in Islam. I have nothing against Sunnism but I can’t accept Alevi children being forced to say Muslim prayers at school.

The number of Imam Hatip schools is growing. Because Alevi beliefs are considered heresy, it’s forbidden to show your faith. Sending our children to these schools in like torture, and it’s also a form of religious assimilation. In the long term, it will kill our culture.

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