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Turkish military’s tradition of secularism facing tough test

A recent controversy over who should lead prayers at mosques and prayer halls in military facilities shows the Turkish military is still a long way from striking a true balance between religious freedom and freedom from religion.

Turkey's armed forces — known as the ultimate guardian of secularism since the foundation of the modern Turkish republic almost a century ago — are now trying to strike a balance between religious freedom and freedom from religion.

During an Aug. 20 TV program, a well-known Turkish politician raised claims that cadets at the war academy in Ankara had sparred over who should lead Friday prayers at the school mosque. Umit Ozdag, deputy chair of the nationalist Good Party, said he planned to follow up by submitting a question to parliament on the issue of some cadets wanting an imam of a religious order to lead Friday prayers instead of the assigned conscript imam.

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