Workers in alcohol-related industries are 'cursed,' Turkish religious official says

According to İdris Bozkurt, a Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) official, everyone who has any form of work associated with alcohol is considered to be "cursed" by the Prophet.

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Individuals who do any work associated with alcohol are considered "cursed," despite potential earnings being deemed halal (religiously permissible), İdris Bozkurt, an official from Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), said during a TV program, the daily Sözcü reported on March 10.

Bozkurt is a member of the High Council of Religious Affairs of the Diyanet.

"Not only those who drink it, but also those who produce it, make others produce it, transport it, serve it, arrange for it to be transported for themselves, serve it to others, or even benefit from its profit—all of these are cursed by our Prophet," Bozkurt said following a question on "Ask Diyanet" aired on Diyanet TV.

"A person working in such an establishment is somehow benefiting from the revenue generated by alcohol, whether directly or indirectly, even if they don’t want to," Bozkurt continued, adding that he advises people who work in places serving alcohol to seek new employment.

"The wages received for the labor or time spent there are halal. However, we cannot say that there is no responsibility or guilt associated with the work performed. Until finding an alternative job, one can continue working there," he added.

Following Bozkurt’s comments, outrage rapidly erupted on social media.

"At the beginning of the month of Ramadan, such a heedless provocation would only be fitting for an institution headed by Ali Erbaş," Ümit Özdağ, leader of the far-right Victory (Zafer) Party wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

He added, "You can say that ‘those who produce, transport and serve alcohol are cursed’, but can you say that the Diyanet’s staff, their chairs, and the official vehicles funded by alcohol taxes are also cursed?"

Bozkurt recently drew ire after saying "(nepotism) is a sin, it is usurping the rights of others. Getting a job like that is not something anyone would approve of, it's not nice. But after being employed, one puts in the labor, and in return earns something. That should be kept separate. In other words, what we earn after we get a job is completely halal. It is the return for our labor. We need to distinguish the earnings from the reason why we got the job."

Critics frequently argue that under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reign, Turkey’s secularism is challenged. Diyanet, in particular, has become increasingly vocal and radical amidst extensive budget surges in recent years.

(English version by Wouter Massink)