The photo of a wedding invitation — a rather ordinary one with golden letters on a dark background —stirred up a hornet’s nest in Turkey’s Twittersphere in late August. While the invitation carried the name of the groom and the fathers of the new couple, there was no trace of a bride or female figure on it. The invitation spurred a major debate with a flurry of questions: Who is the bride? Why isn’t her name on the invitation? What about the mothers of the bride and the groom? Is this another way to erase women from the public space?
Then the social media debate turned to just how a Muslim wedding should be held. This discussion came at a time of concern about a recent bill that, if passed, will allow muftis to conduct weddings. There are two pragmatic reasons for this controversial bill. First, during the last decade, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments have trained and certified thousands of imams, muftis and vaiz (preachers). These people need employment. Second, as Islamic education is spreading, demands that Islamic law be applied in daily affairs have become more prevalent. These demands need to be met for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to continue his populist rule. Although the majority of civil Turkish marriages also seek the blessings of a religious figure, religious weddings performed by clergy have no legally binding status. That is to change if the bill becomes law.