Quran course protocol includes under-4-year-olds

10 Ocak 2024 Çarşamba

In my article dated September 10, 2023, titled 'Non-curricular Religious Education,' I wrote about the Ministry of Family and Social Services signing a protocol with the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DRA) on January 17, 2023, for the '4-6 Years Old Quran Course Support Program.' I mentioned that a total of 24 million 779 thousand 550 Turkish Lira was transferred from the ministry's budget to the DRA for this project, while opposition parties did not initiate any legal action against the protocol, except for a single cancellation lawsuit filed by the Association for Children and Women First in March 2023.

Pedagogues insistently argue that these courses are not suitable for children whose abstract thinking capacities are not yet developed and could lead to harmful consequences, yet this practice continues.

When my aforementioned article was published, it was expected that the ministry's defense brief and the protocol would be added to the lawsuit file. Months later, these two developments took place. In addition, the DRA was included in the lawsuit, and they also submitted a defense brief.

According to the second article of the protocol that reached me, the protocol covers 'supporting children between 45-80 months old who are Turkish citizens, registered in 4-6 years old Quran courses under the DRA, and have benefited from social aids in the last year.'

However, Article 56 of the DRA's Directive on Quran Education and Teaching Courses and Student Dormitories and Hostels dated December 13, 2019, states, 'Registration is made for children who have completed 48 months and have not exceeded 72 months.' So, what is the purpose of including children who are 45 months old, not even 4 years old yet, in the 'Cooperation Protocol on Supporting Children Educated in 4-6 Years Old Quran Courses'?

PROTOCOL CONTRARY TO THE CONSTITUTION

In the lawsuit filed by the Association for the suspension of the protocol's execution, the defense brief sent by the DRA to the Council of State 10th Department on December 7, 2023, stated that such annulment lawsuits could be opened by those whose interests are violated, the subject of social aid is not mentioned in the association's charter, and therefore, the lawsuit is not competent; stating that opening Quran courses is the duty of the DRA, the protocol aimed to ensure equality among children attending Quran courses.

In contrast, association officials emphasize in their charter that 'they were established with the purpose of solidarity with children and women in vulnerable sections and their relatives, and they can file lawsuits against all acts and actions against these groups,' thereby rejecting the procedural objection.

The Ministry, in its defense brief, referred to the state's character as a social state as specified in the constitution, highlighting its duty to support requests for social aid. They defended that paying the expenses of disadvantaged families' children aged 4-6 for attending Quran courses to the DRA, would significantly contribute to starting their educational life equipped with national and spiritual values.

However, this protocol has nothing to do with preventing income inequality in the country. Moreover, all administrative actions of the ministry are 'state affairs,' and according to the constitution, religious sentiments cannot be involved in state affairs. Thus, the protocol is contrary to both the secularism principle stated in Article 2 of the constitution...

Article 10 of the constitution, states, 'Everyone is equal before the law without distinction as to language, race, color, sex, political thought, philosophical belief, religion, sect, and similar reasons,' as it results in giving privilege to families embracing the Islamic faith.

HUGE BUDGETS TRANSFERRED TO THE WELL-FUNDED DRA...

The General Directorate of Social Services under the Ministry transfers cash support in monthly periods for 12 months to the account of the DRA's Education Services Directorate as part of this project. This was 150 TL per child per month in the 2022-2023 academic year.

With a budget increase of 151% to 91.8 billion TL in 2024, the DRA has a larger budget than the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Energy and Natural Resources, Culture and Tourism, Industry and Technology, and Trade. What is the real reason behind transferring money under the guise of 'social aid' to the DRA?

The main goal is to spread non-curricular religious education, under the guise of Quran courses, in pre-primary education.


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