On an April visit to Washington, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced that U.S. President Barack Obama had agreed to join Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening of a $100 million mosque in Maryland later this year.
The news attracted considerably less notice than it likely deserved.
A year after founding modern Turkey in 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk abolished the caliphate and created a government directorate of religious affairs, or the Diyanet. Through the management of mosques and religious education, the new body would make Islam subservient to the state to secure the republic’s ostensibly secular identity.
Today, the Diyanet has largely been turned on its head. In the lead-up to June parliamentary elections, Western news outlets have fretted about Erdogan’s crackdown on free speech and his broader authoritarian drift. Meanwhile, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, has wielded a beefed-up Diyanet to
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