Turkey’s first mufti-led civil marriage was officially performed on December 4 in Ankara with the attendance of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
As President Erdoğan attended the ceremony as a marriage witness, Mehmet Sönmezoğlu, the provincial mufti of Ankara, registered the marriage of Furkan Canikli and Rabia Tuna. Furkan Canikli is the son of Turkey’s National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Turkish parliament speaker İsmail Kahraman also attended the ceremony as marriage witnesses.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) entitled muftis and imams (civil servants from the Religious Affairs Directorate) to perform civil marriages, leading to debates and uproar in the country since the new regulation violates the principle of secularism.
Prior to the recent regulations, only local municipalities were authorized to register civil marriages in Turkey. Considering that there are at least a few imams in all neighbourhoods across the country, citizens will be obliged to perform their civil marriage procedures under religious authorities leaving aside the secular institutions such as municipalities.
President Erdoğan vowed that the new law authorizing Islamic clerics to perform civil marriages would pass “whether you like it or not”, disregarding the critics who argued that particularly female citizens’ rights would be ignored. Many people in Turkey think that Erdoğan’s government is keen on defining every aspect of life with Islamic references and impositions.