Non-praying people 'animals,' Turkish academic says on state TV

A Turkish professor sparked controversy by branding poeple who don't pray as "animals."

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A Turkish professor sparked a furor in Turkey Monday by branding people who don’t pray as “animals,” on a state television programme celebrating the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

“Let me put it straight, the verse of the Koran says... animals do not perform prayers and those who do not perform prayers are animals,” Mustafa Askar said during the show aired on the state-run TRT television over the weekend. Askar said human beings are the only creatures whose foreheads incline to allow the prostration of prayer.

“Human beings were created to be prayer ergonomic,” said Askar, professor at Ankara University’s Faculty of Theology. With controversy growing, Turkey’s religious affairs directorate, Diyanet, said it was “unacceptable” to insult people by targeting their freedom of faith.

“The place, importance and value of prayers in our religion are known by everyone,” Diyanet said in a statement on its Twitter account. “But it is unacceptable to denigrate or insult people by targeting their freedom of faith and worshipping.”

Diyanet also said the professor’s inference from Koranic verses “does not bode well with Islam’s language of wisdom and its messages of mercy.” Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli, however, declined to comment on the controversy created by the professor’s comments.

“We did not have the opportunity to watch in detail” the programme, Canikli told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

“If it constitutes a crime, necessary investigations and prosecutions are carried out by our prosecutors and our courts. There's no obstacle,” he said. Turkey’s secular constitution is supposed to guarantee freedom of worship but critics have complained of a growing Islamisation under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Engin Altay, of the main opposition secular Republican People's Party (CHP), called Askar a “lunatic.”

“I’ve read the Koran. There is neither a verse, nor a saying (by the prophet). I think this individual is a lunatic,” he was quoted by the Dogan news agency.

“The ones who are animals are actually those who let him appear on such an important broadcasting company like TRT.”

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