Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), expressed opposition to Israel’s military operations in Gaza during a speech delivered before a concert in Ankara, where the proceeds were intended to be donated to Palestinians in Gaza. In his address Erbaş drew parallels between the Jews of the past and their descendants today, suggesting that like their ancestors, they engage in destruction and conspiracies.
According to Erbaş, the events unfolding in Gaza reveal the true nature of a mindset that seeks to portray itself as the master and reformer of the world, exposing the dark and dirty reality behind its facade. Protests staged on behalf of humanity, the law and morality, in Erbaş’s view, have no influence or meaning for these corrupt individuals and their supporters.
Erbaş pointed out that the Quran references the forefathers of Israel, stating that it illuminates the mindset of these disruptors. “Just as they were on that day, today the descendants of those troublemakers, the descendants of those corrupt individuals, are walking the same path,” Erbaş added.
In his speech Erbaş also condemned the ongoing atrocities in Palestine, accusing “Zionists” of attempting to justify their brutal actions, massacres and distorted ideologies in the eyes of the world. He said they claim a promise from God for the territories they occupy , deeming everything permissible and justifiable, leading to years of the merciless killing of innocent civilians. Erbaş expressed his view that Israel has turned the historic tragedy of the Holocaust into an industry, using it as a shield to legitimize past injustices. He pointed out that today the Israelis continue to cloak their current acts of violence in the same veil of victimhood.
“Today, the issue of Jerusalem and Palestine has become the top priority on the agenda of every conscientious individual, regardless of where they are in the world. This matter is no longer solely the concern of Palestinians or Muslims alone,” Erbaş said.
The Diyanet’s alignment with Hamas and support for its attacks on Israeli targets align with the broader policy pursued by the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The organization has not only declared a boycott against companies supporting Israel but has also actively mobilized its global network in support of Hamas. It organized online emergency meetings, with participants from 92 countries, condemning Israel and expressing support for Hamas fighters, describing their armed campaign as justified by international law as well as religion.
The Diyanet’s involvement in anti-Israel and pro-Hamas activities extends to the encouragement of congregations to attend demonstrations. On October 28 Erbaş attended and led a prayer at the “Great Palestine Rally” organized by the Turkish government, featuring President Erdogan as the keynote speaker.
Nordic Monitor previously reported that during a speech at the 43rd Consultative Meeting of Provincial Muftis on November 16, Erbaş issued a religious edict stating that it is forbidden for Muslims to support any country aligned with Israel. “Remaining indifferent to oppression and injustice, staying silent in the face of tyrants and traitors, is directly or indirectly supporting oppressors, occupiers, terrorists and killers. Supporting those who support them is also forbidden,” he said.
The Diyanet, initially established to counteract radicalism, has undergone a fundamental transformation during Erdogan’s 22-year rule. Evolving into a significant instrument for propagating political Islam, the Diyanet has played a pivotal role in promoting the Erdogan government’s narrative both within Turkey and internationally. Since 2016 Erdogan’s government has purged approximately 3,000 personnel from the Diyanet, replacing them with individuals embracing Erdogan’s political Islamist ideology.
Furthermore, reports suggest that Turkish imams assigned to Diyanet-run mosques abroad have been instructed to collaborate with Turkish intelligence agency MİT, effectively turning the Diyanet into an instrument of oppression under Erdogan’s rule.
As of September 2023 the Diyanet was overseeing 89,327 mosques in Turkey and hundreds abroad, employing 141,149 personnel, primarily imams. With a budget of 23.3 billion Turkish lira in 2022, Diyanet has a significant financial portfolio, half of which comprises real estate holdings valued at 1 billion Turkish lira. The budget for next year is set to increase substantially to TL 91.8 billion, reflecting a 151 percent increase from the current year’s budget of TL 36.4 billion.