Three educational seminars conducted by Turkey's Directorate for Religious Affairs (Diyanet) were held in three five-star luxurious resorts in the vacation destination of Antalya in January and February, according to a report in the daily Sözcü.
Diyanet responded to questions from the newspaper by saying that its own facilities lacked the sufficient number of beds and rooms to accommodate the seminars, and that this is why they were held in hotels. However, the hotels in question, WOME Deluxe, Alan Xafira, and Silence Beach Resort are some of the most lavish five-star hotels in a region where the coastline is packed with such resorts.
Diyanet headquarters in Ankara is known to have a conference hall as well as other large rooms and facilities on it premises.
Diyanet has become notorious in recent years for both using its resources for the purpose of promoting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's project of creating a pious generation in Turkey, as well as funding major mosque projects for other countries abroad, a source of controversy as its budget easily outpaces the budget of other key ministries.
Last year, Diyanet spent 2.5 times what the Foreign Ministry did in the first 11 months of the year. While Diyanet’s spending was 9.6 billion liras, the Foreign Ministry’s was 3.9 billion liras.
Diyanet’s initial budget for the year was 10.4 billion liras, which was then lowered to 7.4 billion. Diyanet ended up going 2.2 billion liras over budget and secured a budget of 11.5 for 2020, according to to the daily Cumhuriyet in a report last year.
The ministries or administrative bodies that Diyanet topped in spending are the Ministry of Urbanization and Environment with 6.5 billion liras, Ministry of Industry and Technology with 6.4 billion liras, Ministry of Culture and Tourism with 5.2 liras, Ministry of Trade with 4.1 billion liras, Foreign Ministry with 3.9 billion liras and the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources with 2.3 billion liras.
The Diyanet has also come under fire for preparing Friday prayer sermons that have been described as propaganda for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Diyanet chair Ali Erbaş referred to smoking cigarettes as 'haram,' while speaking at a conference earlier this month, repeating a similar statement that Erdogan made last year. The president is known for his extreme distaste for tobacco use.Turkey's top religious body head cites sections of Quran for why cigarettes are 'haram'