European court: Turkey’s compulsory religion course ‘violates’ rights

The court urged that the course be made optional

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The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that a compulsory religion course in Turkey’s education system violates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The court urged that the course be made optional, Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reported.


The ruling comes in the wake of an appeal filed in 2011 by parents who belong to the Alevi faith, concerning the compulsory Culture of Religion and Knowledge of Morality course in schools.

The Alevi faith is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and is not recognized in Turkey as a religion on its own.

The court said recent changes to the class’s course books, including the addition of background information about the Alevi faith, were not enough.

“The court observed in particular that in the field of religious instruction, the Turkish education system was still inadequately equipped to ensure respect for parents’ convictions,” the newspaper quoted the court as saying.

“Aspects of the curriculum had not really been overhauled since it predominantly focused on knowledge of Islam as practiced and interpreted by the majority of the Turkish population.”

The education system should adopt an “exemption procedure,” the court said, where the applicants’ children would not be required to take the religion course.

“The discrepancies complained of by the applicants between the approach adopted in the curriculum and the particular features of their faith as compared with the Sunni understanding of Islam were so great that they would scarcely be alleviated by the mere inclusion in textbooks of information about Alevi beliefs and practice,” the court said.

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