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Bozdağ: Religious directorate not to fund cemevi construction

02.02.2012, Today’s Zaman

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ stated on Monday that the Directorate of Religious Affairs has no plans to allocate funds for the construction of Alevi houses of worship, a statement which follows a recent push by Alevi groups to receive official status for cemevis, the religious minority’s traditional center of worship.

Bozdağ, during a press conference on Monday, said, “Just as it is not the duty of the Directorate of Religious Affairs to build mosques, it is not the duty of the directorate to build cemevis.” The declaration came in response to a question by Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ensar Öğüt, who asked Bozdağ: “Is the directorate planning to build cemevis in villages and neighborhoods inhabited by Alevis? Will you be planning to make any efforts towards restoring the legal status of cemevis?”

Cemevis have not been legally recognized by the Turkish state since the passage of the 1925 Closure of Dervish Lodges Law, which shuttered the country’s Sufi orders, dervish lodges and other non-orthodox centers of Islamic worship. While Bozdağ did not comment of whether or not the government was planning to legally recognize cemevis as official places of worship, the government announced an “Alevi opening” in 2009, and several high-ranking figures, including President Abdullah Gül, have since been said to “unofficially recognize” them as centers of worship through a series of visits and speeches at cemevis.

In November 2011, Todays’s Zaman reported that an Ankara court sided with a cemevi when Ankara municipal officials objected to the worship center’s declaration that is was a “house of worship” in its charter. The court sided with the cemevi on the basis that “Alevi cemevis or cem houses have been socially known and accepted as places of worship for centuries.”

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