The mosques, which were closed on March 16 as part of the preventive measures taken against the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey, will be reopened on Friday, May 29, after the Turkish government announced ‘‘the gradual normalization steps’’.
At least 200 male teachers in the country will be assigned to distribute face masks and hand sanitizers in mosques to be opened for mass prayers, according to the official letter sent by the district directorates of national education to school headships.
‘‘If you don’t volunteer to do it, we will formally assign you to this duty,’’ the government authorities told teachers who objected to the decision.
Stating that 200 volunteer male teachers are needed to work in mosques in order to provide certain necessities such as social distancing rules, hygiene and face masks with the support of law enforcement forces, the circular also noted, ‘‘Working time is about an hour during the Friday prayers.’’
In November 2019, the Ministry of National Education had forced all teachers to gather in mosques and carried out an Islamic memorial service, called ‘‘Mevlit’’, where verses from the Koran were read to celebrate the National Teachers’ Day of November 24, marking a reflective of anti-secular practices of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the educational system.
In 2018, a circular letter had been sent to all the school directorates in Istanbul’s Ümraniye district regarding the need for teachers who can preach sermons in mosques as part of a protocol signed by the Istanbul Provincial Directorate of National Education and the Istanbul Office of Mufti, an Islamic institution qualified to issue a non-binding opinion (fatwa) on a point of Islamic law (sharia) in modern state bureaucracies in much of the Sunni Muslim world.