Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan praised religious education in Turkey during a programme on Friday organised by the Imam Hatip Schools Alumni Association.
“A nation which forgets its religion would become ruled by other nations which would attempt to control it,” Erdogan said in a speech after the Ramadan dinner in Istanbul, “and if a civilisation forgets the sources upon which it was founded, it will fall captive to other civilisations.”
Erdogan hailed the Imam Hatip schools as a type of “resistance” against the predominant models at the time it was established. “The Imam Hatip schools occupy a special place in my heart and mind,” he said. All of the prime minister’s children are graduates of Imam Hatip.
The schools emerged as a result of social need. “There was a phase in Turkish history when the nation witnessed a huge gap between the state and the people,” Erdogan pointed out, “which led to society’s need for schools that would undertake the responsibility of educating the youth in values of patriotism.”
He noted that the Turkish state in the past tried to shape citizens based on what it wanted, rather than what the citizens wanted. “The schools and ministries of education in the past sought to mould children according to one template, which represented official ideas.”
Prime Minister Erdogan lashed out at past secular education systems which aimed to bring up individuals “who had no religion and no religious or moral values”. This, he said, isolated young people from their heritage and all their religious and moral values.