Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), on Oct. 4 held a meeting with religious personnel on duty in the city, as part of the Oct. 1-7 Week of Mosques and Religious Officials.
Out of the 3,574 religious personnel to whom the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality sent invitations, approximately 700 staff joined the dinner meeting.
İmamoğlu held a speech at the event, during which he said that “the abuse of religion, unfortunately, poses an important obstacle in front of the world peace, societal security and individuals' inner peace.” He said that an understanding of religion in which religious services are performed without any sincerity perpetuates this abuse.
İmamoğlu said it is at this point that religious personnel take on a very important responsibility.
“An understanding of religion that considers faith as if it is made up of religious services that are performed without thinking about their meaning and value and without feeling them, aggravates this picture,” he said.
“When we start to see us above others, the path in front of us would only take us to animosity and conflict. Those who are filled with arrogance would not just damage themselves and their surroundings, but also the belief and values that they represent,” he said.
Critics point out the “extreme use and abuse of religion” by the governing AKP and Erdoğan as their political weapon against the opposition, especially during the election campaigns.
It is a common attempt on the part of Erdoğan to label the opposition as “un-Islamic,” to widen the rift in Turkish society and attract votes. Erdoğan is known to be portraying the CHP as being an enemy of Istanbul from the start of the Republic.
Last month, Erdoğan started the new judiciary year with the prayer of the head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Ali Erbaş. Erdoğan's move was said to be undertaken for political purposes to consolidate his power further.
Erdogan further endorsed Erbaş in another public event when the latter recited the Islamic prayer to mark the inauguration of the Türkevi, or Turkish House, in New York on Sept. 20.
The increasing appearance of Erbaş with Erdoğan comes despite Turkey's constitution which says that Diyanet must act in line with the principles of secularism, without expressing political views.