On April 10, at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did something unusual during his usual weekly address to the deputies of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He suddenly paused during his address and called the national education minister, Ismet Yilmaz, to the podium. The two men then murmured for about half a minute in front of the huge audience. Muted microphones did not catch the whole conversation, but the minister was heard speaking about "the report on deism" and “the thoughts of our youth about this.” “No,” Erdogan was heard saying in a definitive tone. “That is wrong.”
The report in question, which was discussed at a workshop by the Ministry of Education branch in Konya, a conservative Anatolian town, had made the news in early April. Titled “The Youth is Sliding to Deism,” the document shared surprising observations about the very young people that Turkish society often expects to be the most religious: the students of the state-sponsored religious “imam hatip” schools. The report says that because archaic interpretations of Islam cannot persuade the new generation on issues such as the “problem of evil” (why God allows evil to take place), some imam hatip students have begun questioning the faith. Instead of adopting atheism, the report added, these post-Islamic youths embrace the milder alternative: “deism,” or the belief in God but without religion.