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Turkey's constitution will remain secular, prime minister insists

By Martin Smith
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has sought to ease fears that Turkey is planning a constitution based on Islam. UPI/Maryam Rahmanian | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/6ed9f6eb82765e223703c6841e32fa85/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has sought to ease fears that Turkey is planning a constitution based on Islam. UPI/Maryam Rahmanian | License Photo

ANKARA, Turkey, April 27 (UPI) -- Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted Wednesday that the country's constitution will remain secular and not tied to any religion.

His statement sought to calm fears that his ruling AK Party was planning to change Turkey's rule of law to be based on Islamic teachings.

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Parliamentary speaker Ismail Kahraman caused an uproar on Monday when he stated that overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey should have a religious constitution. But he later said that his comments were his "personal views" and that the new charter should guarantee religious freedoms.

Speaking to provincial heads of his AK Party in the Turkish capital Ankara, Davutoglu said that the new constitution, which is currently being drafted, will include elements of liberal secularism.

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"The AK Party is not pursuing anything else in this regard, and we don't think it is correct to make any speculations regarding this matter," he stated.

"Within this framework, the new constitution will include the principle of secularism in a way that ensures the freedom of religion and faith, and that the government keeps an equal distance from all belief groups."

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Davutoglu said that the writing process for the new constitution had begun this week and he was getting input from academics and opinion leaders, as well as members of his own party.

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Critics have accused the Prime Minister's party, which has been in power since 2002, of chipping away at Turkey's secular traditions. These have been enshrined in the country's constitution since 1924, when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk oversaw the founding of the modern republic. The current constitution is a legacy of Turkey's 1980 military coup.

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