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Turkey issues new Friday prayer directive

A government directive allowing public employees to take time off from work for Friday prayers has sparked questions about the future of Turkey’s secular system.
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As Turkey grapples with terrorism and myriad social and economic problems, an unexpected controversy has moved on to the country’s crowded agenda. A Jan. 6 directive issued by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu allows public employees to take time off for Friday prayers: “In line with freedom of religious faith, guaranteed by the constitution and related laws, employees of public institutions and establishments who so desire will be given time off for Friday prayer if its time overlaps with working hours without causing a loss in working hours.”

Twitter users were quick to react. Some saw the circular as an affront to the secular system. “Bye bye secularism, bye bye republic, hello Afghanistan!” one user wrote. Another remarked, “Today schools and teachers off for Friday prayer, tomorrow students and soon Friday a full holiday.” Some saw the directive as an attempt by the government to distract from other controversies and problems. “This time they must be trying to distract attention from the Hitler issue and the price hikes,” wrote one person. Others saw the move as putting pressure on less religious employees. “There was already permission for Friday prayer, especially in public offices. Now, those who don’t go will be fingered. Let them not go now if they dare,” one man commented. 

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