Erdogan: Ottoman language will be taught, whether they like it or not

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected debating a proposal to teach the Ottoman language in compulsory classes at high schools, saying it will be taught whether critics like it or not.

Addressing the Fifth Religion Council hosted by Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, Erdogan defended the proposed classes saying that learning the Ottoman language will restore severed ties with “our roots.”

“They ask, ‘Are we going to learn how to read what’s written on gravestones?’ History rests in those gravestones. Can there be a bigger weakness than this? This [shift from the Ottoman language] was equal to the severing of our jugular veins. It is a disaster that this nation, which had superior scientific qualities, lost its wisdom,” Erdogan said, pointing out that the Ottoman language is “not a foreign language.”

“There are those who do not want this to be taught. This is a great danger. Whether they like it or not, the Ottoman language will be learned and taught in this country. This religion has a guardian. And this guardian will protect this religion till the end of time,” he said.

“The scholars of Turkey still stand tall despite the pressure and efforts to sever our ties with our roots for the past 200 years,” the president said, referring to the period of the Tanzimat, which was marked by a series of reforms undertaken in the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century to modernize society along secular and bureaucratic lines.

Turkey’s National Education Council voted at the weekend on a proposal to introduce compulsory Ottoman language classes at religious imam-hatip high schools and as elective classes at other high schools, along with other proposals to make religious culture classes compulsory from the first grade on and axe bartending classes for vocational tourism high schools.

Erdogan said that a struggle in the West between the church and the state ended in religion being removed from the public sphere, and he claimed that it is still a matter of debate who was successful in this struggle and to what extent.

“As you know very well, the vacuum left by religion in the West was filled by phenomena that are considered religion by a significant majority, such as modernization, capitalism, money, technology, fashion and even science. Some Muslim countries, including most notably Turkey, unfortunately, have imitated debates between church and state and church and science, just like they imitated many other things as part of a Westernization process. In the West, the vacuum left by Christianity was filled with, say, the religion of citizenship. Similar attempts took place in predominantly Muslim countries,” Erdogan said.

He said that pious people have been systematically scorned in these lands for the past 200 years and that Islamophobia has been flamed both in the West and within the Islamic world, forcing the Muslim world and its intellectuals to remain in a “defensive position.”

According to Erdogan, he and his colleagues were subject to attacks for years because they were in a “struggle to instill self-confidence in this nation.”

“If we were made a target, this is not for nothing. This is because we have been asking the questions that have not been asked for the past 200 years,” he said, citing criticism he has received for a series of controversial remarks he recently made, such as the assertion that America was discovered by Muslims or that women and men are “not equal but equivalent.”