While the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ statement about homosexuality has prompted an outcry from many NGO’s and Turkish bar associations, a number of people came out in support of its chair Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş. His speech disturbed and offended me, as I am sure it has many of you. This is why I believe Dr. Erbaş was wrong.

As you may know, Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş’s Friday sermon (khutbah), “Ramadan: Patience and Will Training,” delivered recently in the Ankara Hacı Bayram-ı Veli Mosque, has elicited quite a reaction. In his speech, Erbaş said: “O People! Islam views adultery as one of the greatest sins. Islam abhors homosexuality. It causes illness and is corrupting this generation. Hundreds of thousands of people per year are exposed to the HIV virus as a result of illegitimate, unmarried lifestyles: İslamic literature decries such adultery as sinful. Let us fight together to protect people from this kind of evil.”  The speech prompted stern reactions from the Turkish bar, NGO’s and LGBTI+ associations, who strongly oppose his homophobic rhetoric; with some making criminal complaints. Other organizations and public figures have, however, signalled support for Dr. Erbaş and his viewpoint.

Are we obligated to live by a set of prescribed norms, or, is it the right of each individual to live the lifestyle they choose?
When I look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first thing that catches my attention is Article 3: ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
It says, ‘right to life’, it says ‘liberty’, it says ‘security of person’
It does not say ‘You must live your life a certain way,’ or ‘your personal liberty and security is conditional.’
Each of us is a unique individual. We each have the right to freely decide what our wishes and preferences are, as long as we do not harm others!
The voices of religious authority that say: “Do not live together without getting married, lest you engage in adultery and cause illness” also reason that “A man can marry a 9-year-old girl.” Likewise, the same voices say, “Do not react to your husband, do not call the police if your husband beats you” while also dictating, without scientific basis, “Do not be in love with your fellow man or you will contract AIDS.”
Our preferences are not theirs to decide. Our preferences are human, and most importantly, they are harmless to women and children.
In these days under quarantine, we are all coming to understand the value of freedom. It might be beneficial for us to consider the freedoms some others are not afforded – and to be more accepting of their universal rights – instead of provoking and humiliating one another.
It might also be beneficial to form opinion based upon scientific data, and accurate, up-to-date information, rather than blindly accepting and disseminating damaging falsehoods.
In our attempts to keep the public informed, and to diminish societal ills, for example, we could focus on more constructive phrasing, such as “psychological and physical injustices experienced by children and women,” rather than resorting to provocative and divisive ways of communicating. Would this not be more beneficial?
I think, it would! I wish our mantra was ‘Everyone Deserves Love’ or ‘Freedom to All’. I wish we were now talking about social policies to protect women and children, rather than espousing unscientific, blinkered beliefs. Ah, if only!…