Turkish media predicted that the move presaged a “religious diplomatic offensive,” as Ankara sought to outflank big-spending Saudi Arabia as the leader of Sunni Islam and assist Muslim-minority communities in the West.
Just last week, Davutoglu said that Turkish Islam could be “an antidote” to the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) and that he had assigned the Diyanet the “mission” to battle the Middle East’s sectarian conflicts.
Until recently, the Diyanet’s expanded scope and ambition had met with little complaint within Turkey, mainly because Turkish law stipulates that a political party that questions whether the Diyanet should exist can be dissolved
. The three-year-old Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) apparently sees the government’s promotion of a conservative, Sunni Islam as problematic enough, in a purportedly secular state, to risk extinction.
In its election manifesto, released in late April, the party states that, should it win, “The Diyanet will be abolished, the state will take its hands out of the area of religion and belief.” Responding a few days later in a speech to industrialists, Erdogan issued a warning: “Those who promise to abolish the Diyanet, it is clear what kind of a lesson our nation will teach them.”