Top religious body's budget to exceed that of seven Turkish ministries

Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate's budget will increase by 3.2 billion liras to 16.1 billion liras next year, making it better funded than seven ministries.

Diyanet head Ali Erbaş is seen in this file photo.

Duvar English

The budget of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) is set to exceed 16 billion Turkish liras next year, making it better funded than seven ministries out of 17. 

The Diyanet, whose head Ali Erbaş is known for his controversial remarks and hate speech, is set to be allocated 16.1 billion liras in 2022, the daily Cumhuriyet reported on Sept. 15. 

The budgets of seven ministries, including the interior and foreign ministries, are less than that planned for the Diyanet, revealing once again the widening role of the religious authority within the Turkish government. 

Diyanet has signaled that it is widening its purview in recent weeks, expanding its influence into several aspects of everyday life. Last week, Erbaş suggested that online behavior could be regulated by Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). The Directorate also announced that shellfish, including mussels, shrimp, and crab, were not halal. 

Most recently, in a stunning departure from Turkey’s traditionally secular treatment of public institutions, the directorate announced that it will begin offering Quranic study classes in universities, prisons, student dorms, and hospitals.

With this proposed budget, Diyanet will be better funded than all but two of the 200 specially-funded government administrations, most of which are universities. The only two administrations that will exceed Diyanet are the General Directorate of Highways and the State Hydraulic Works. Turkey’s top universities, including Middle East Technical University and Boğaziçi University, will receive a fraction of what Diyanet receives – 981 million TL and 482 million TL respectively.

Based on the proposed budget, Diyanet will also be better funded than 26 core functions of the national government. The entire parliament will receive one-eighth of what Diyanet does (2.1 billion TL), the General Directorate of Migration Management would receive one-fourth (4.4 billion TL), and the Constitutional Court would receive 1/160th (107.6 million TL). These funding decisions clearly outline the government’s priorities, putting importance on religious education and influence over traditional, secular state functionings, such as the constitutional court and public universities.

The formal budget proposal is set to be submitted to parliament in October. If accepted, it will go into force for FY 2022.