Wednesday, September 17, 2014

European Court Says Turkey Should Offer Alevis Exemption From Compulsory Religion and Ethics Courses

In Mansur Yalçın and Others v. Turkey, (ECHR, Sept. 16, 2014) (full text of opinion in French), the European Court of Human Rights in a Chamber Judgment held that Turkish schools have not made sufficient chagnes in required religion and ethics classes to accommodate Alevis.  As summarized in the Court's English language press release:
The fact that the curriculum of the religion and ethics classes gave greater prominence to Islam as practised and interpreted by the majority of the Turkish population than to other minority interpretations of Islam could not in itself be viewed as a departure from the principles of pluralism and objectivity which would amount to indoctrination. However, bearing in mind the particular features of the Alevi faith as compared with the Sunni understanding of Islam, the applicants could legitimately have considered that the approach adopted in the classes was likely to cause their children to face a conflict of allegiance between the school and their own values.
The Court failed to see how such a conflict could be avoided in the absence of an appropriateexemption procedure. The discrepancies complained of by the applicants between the approach adopted in the curriculum and the particular features of their faith as compared with the Sunni understanding of Islam were so great that they would scarcely be alleviated by the mere inclusion in textbooks of information about Alevi beliefs and practice.
A Chamber Judgment may be appealed to the Grand Chamber of the Court.