Ankara: Days after 32-year-old Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman advocating for “Moderate Islam”, Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stirred up a hornet’s nest saying “Islam needs to be updated” on the occasion of International Women’s Day program at the Presidential Palace in the national capital.
Tayyip Erdogan in his address to women from all walks of life, heaped praise on women’s role in society but also slammed clerics justifying violence against women and defending other forms of misogyny with reference to Islam.
“Recently, some people claiming to be clerics issued statements contradicting the religion. It is hard to understand. They have no place in our times. They don’t know Islam needed an update and is accordingly updated. You can’t apply the practices applied 15 centuries ago today. Islam changes and adopts to the conditions of different ages. This is the beauty of Islam,” Erdogan said.
This progressive take on religion, especially the very suggestion that “Islam needs to be updated,” came as a cold shower to pro-Erdogan commentators. On social media, many of them stood silent, whereas others offered mild criticism, repeating the usual mantra that “Islam is perfect,” it needs no “update” and it is only Muslims who need to improve themselves by living up to Islam’s fixed commandments.
Erdogan comments came after Nurettin Yildiz, a traditional scholar and a columnist for the Islamist Milli Gazete, sparked a row justifying domestic violence. “Allah told us to hit women [to tame them]. Women should be grateful that their husbands [only] beat them,” said Yildiz, who is facing a criminal inquiry now.
A day later, Erdogan refined his initial remark about updating Islam and said he seeks no “reform in religion”. “Our holy Quran has and will always have words to say, its commandments will never change,” Erdogan affirmed. However, he added, “The independent reasoning derived from the Quran” — in other words many clauses in classic jurisprudence would “surely change according to the time, the conditions and the possibilities.”
Last year, Mohammed bin Salman had said that Saudi Arabia would “return” to a “moderate Islam that is open to the world and all religions”.
The crown prince also announced Saudi Arabia would “eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts”, saying the country was not like this in the past.