Are you planning a trip to Turkey in the near future? You’re in luck! You will not only find a touristic adventure but also an education in Islam!
On Nov. 2, Cumhuriyet published a comprehensive report on the Diyanet’s upcoming services for 2019. They include a “mosque guide” to help local and foreign tourists understand “Islamic history, culture, architecture, art and the religion itself correctly.” The Diyanet also has plans to publish pamphlets about the Prophet, the Quran and Islam for tourists.
The owner of a prominent tourism agency with 25 years of experience told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Our guides have the proper education and certification to talk about all touristic locations, including mosques. They are professionals. The Diyanet has done research on how many tourists visit mosques [and identified] the top four languages as English, Arabic, Russian and German. My question is will they allow tour guides who do not receive training by the Diyanet to lead tours to historic mosques? Most of the imams we encounter do not even speak Arabic. This plan just seems like another gimmick to increase the Diyanet’s budget.”
The agency has introduced several new categories in its exorbitant 2019 budget. Its rapidly growing budget has generated heated criticism, particularly because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly announced since September that Turkey’s public expenditures will be curtailed. For instance, the Science, Industry and Technology Ministry’s budget has been reduced by 56% for 2019. In the meantime, the Diyanet’s budget is to increase by 36% from 7.7 billion to 10.5 billion Turkish liras (about $1.4 billion to $2 billion). To put it into perspective, this is five times the budget of Turkey’s intelligence agency and also that of Energy Ministry and six times that of the Turkish Parliament. At a time when newspapers are going bankrupt because of paper scarcity and expense in Turkey, the Diyanet has spent over 14 million liras ($2.8 million) on free books in the first six months of 2018.
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