The government investigates those who object to homophobia
Stuck at home during Ramadan because of covid-19, Turks at least have something new to argue about. In a sermon marking the start of the holy month on April 24th, Ali Erbas, the country's top religious official, proclaimed that Islam condemned homosexuality "because it brought illnesses and generational decay".
After human-rights groups, some opposition politicians and the Ankara Bar Association accused Mr Erbas of inciting hatred, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters rushed to the cleric's defence. One of his flacks said Mr Erbas could not be faulted for voicing "di vine judgment". Another accused his critics of Islamophobia. "An attack against the head of the Diyanet is an attack on the state," Mr Erdogan himself warned, referring to the institution Mr Erbas has headed since 2017. "What he said was completely true." The same day, state prosecutors launched an investigation—against the Ankara Bar.
Scripturally speaking, Mr Erbas had a point. The Koran takes a dim view of homosexuals (not to mention atheists, drinkers and women who disobey their husbands). But though homosexuality is outlawed in most other Muslim countries and punished by death in a few, it is not a crime in constitutionally secular Turkey. The Diyanet, which runs the country's 90,000 mosques, provides religious guidance, but has no power to impose its prescriptions.
LGBT groups have never had it easy in Turkey, though prejudice seems to be on the wane. As recently as 2012, a whopping 85% of Turks said they did not want to have a gay neighbour.