Incest and legitimacy

 Last Friday, the Religious Affairs Directorate, Turkey's top religious body, published a fatwa (a legal opinion issued by an expert of Islamic law) on its Internet page about whether a man having “lustful feelings” for his daughter would invalidate the marriage with his wife. After the first shock, let's take a deep breath together and try to analyze what is happening.


First, the one who asks these kinds of questions must be seriously ill. I really can't understand what kind of father could imagine such a thing, but we live in a big society in which perverts live as well, so our Religious Affairs Directorate has an answer for them as well. Second, the issue is prescribed in Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 102/3C, which foresees a prison sentence of not less than 18 years for incest. If I were in the position of the Religious Affairs Directorate, I would suggest the one asking the question seek immediate help from a psychiatrist or I would call on the public prosecutor's office to investigate.

The answer, which was removed from the website later amid outrage, said Islamic schools of thought have different opinions on the matter, with some schools accepting that the marriage would be null and void if the daughter is older than 9. I really don't know what the Religious Affairs Directorate thinks here. In order to underline that such a thing is forbidden according to Islamic law, they chose to follow a path that gives the pervert an escape route: The marriage can be nullified and you can marry your own daughter! Any reader who is not an idiot can come to that interpretation. In a statement made by the Religious Affairs Directorate, they say: “The opinions in the text which lack wisdom and morals cannot be attributed to the High Council on Religious Affairs and the directorate. Yesterday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, said the Religious Affairs Directorate became a victim of “character assassination” by the so-called “Parallel State Structure and its supporters, who are disturbed by religion and the pious.” What a “familiar explanation” it was!

Canan Güllü, president of the Federation of Women's Associations of Turkey, issued a statement in which she said the cases of incest have increased to 40 percent in Turkey and she can provide an example from almost every city and village. Güllü also stated that these kinds of religious explanations legitimize incest because the Religious Affairs Directorate's answer uses a language of normalization as well. The judicial statistics back Güllü up, as many instances of incest have been brought in front of the criminal courts.

Just after saying “Muslims don't commit genocide” on the Darfur genocide after the visit to Ankara by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, I'm about to hear President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's voice stating “Muslims don't commit incest.” I really do not want to insult those with Islamic sensitivities, but if you think that there is no incest in Muslim countries, you are very wrong. Instead, let's say that there shouldn't be any incest in Muslim country, that it is forbidden and contrary to human rights. I would applaud President Erdoğan if he had said “True Muslims would never commit genocide” or “Muslims must not commit genocide.”

The Religious Affairs Directorate controls a big budget, bigger than that of nine ministries. However, it only provides religious services to the Sunni branch of Islam. The Religious Affairs Directorate also answered the question “Is it permissible to marry an Alevi?” by saying, “Muslims can only marry Muslims.” One of my Alevi friends complains that “they use the tax money provided by me and millions of Alevi citizens, and in turn humiliate us.” The Office of the Ombudsman made a suggestion the week before the new year that the Religious Affairs Directorate should recruit and pay the clerics of all religions and sects and not only those of Sunni Islam, as must be the case in a secular country. We will see what will happen, but it is obvious that the Religious Affairs Directorate needs big structural reform.