“The fact that today the Turkish adhan, one of the defining atrocities of the [1938-1950] single-party period, can be defended publicly, be longed for, is a sign of the endless struggle for the values of this nation,” Erdogan said.
The criticism is part of a largely successful long-term initiative by Erdogan to reshape the narrative of Turkey’s founder, said Soner Cagaptay, a historian and author. “You are seeing an overall trend where Turkey is embracing conservative Islam in general, driven by government policy and use of state resources.”
Every mosque in Turkey has been under the control of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, since 1924, its imams reading an identical Friday sermon every week. The Diyanet was initially used by Ataturk to shape Turkey’s spiritual life — with policies like the Turkish adhan. But under Erdogan it has become the primary means of reversing the trend. Its annual budget has ballooned to $1.6 billion, and it employs more than 110,000 people.
The Diyanet was instrumental in thwarting a 2016 military coup that sought to unseat Erdogan. Officials sent out a memo ordering mosques to turn on their loudspeakers and invite the public not to prayers but to the streets, to confront tanks and fighter jets.