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Turkey's New Constitution: Secular or Religious - the Debate is Open

Turkey is in the midst of writing a new Constitution. Whether the NATO member builds upon and enhances the traits of a secular government that have contributed to its rise over the years, or should it adopt a religious national law, are the two options at the forefront of deciding Turkey's form of government over the coming years.

Although Turkey, a mainly Muslim nation, remains very religious, since 1924 and the rule of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey has been widely regarded as a model secular democratic country. Yet, in the present debate over a new constitution, stark differences as to the type of emerging government remain between those tasked with building the text.

While there are clear concerns over the adoption of an executive presidency to replace the current parliamentary system, to concentrate too much power in the hands of ambitious President Tayyip Erdogan, Reuters News Agency earlier today, cited the Turkish government as pledging that European standards on human rights will form the basis of the new text.

On the other hand, Turkey's parliament speaker, Ismail Kahraman of the ruling AK Party, has suggested that "...the new constitution should not have secularism...It needs to discuss religion...It should not be irreligious, this new constitution, it should be a religious constitution," Reuters quoted the parliament speaker. According to the news agency, Kahraman is overseeing the efforts to draft the new constitution.

In contrast to the speaker's opinion, the head of Turkey's main opposition party - the Republican People's Party(CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu, according to Reuters, has maintained: "Secularism is the primary principle of social peace...Secularism is there to ensure that everyone has religious freedom."

In an even greater contrast to the suggestion of Turkey's parliament speaker, the head of Turkey's constitutional commission, Mustafa Sentop, has told reporters that the country's draft constitution retains the precept of secularism and that the ruling AK Party has not discussed removing it. 

Thus, Turkey's final draft of a new constitution appears to be still open for debate. The final version of which would have to be approved by the Turks themselves.