Public remarks by Turkey’s powerful President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have often raised eyebrows in the West in recent years. However, in a March 8 speech on International Women's Day, Erdogan broke this pattern and said something that could only be music to liberal ears: He condemned misogynist clerics who degrade women, and even said, “Islam must be updated."
The speech was made to hundreds of Turkish women from various walks of life who were invited to the presidential complex in Ankara for International Women's Day. In his address to the women, Erdogan implicitly referred to a few ultraconservative scholars in Turkey who recently outraged society by defending misogynist practices such as wife beating. "Recently, some people claiming to be clerics issued statements contradicting religion,” Erdogan said. “They have no place in our times. They don't realize how Islam needs to be updated and is updated accordingly. You can't apply the practices applied 15 centuries ago today. Islam changes and adapts to the conditions of different ages. This is the beauty of Islam.”