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When Is Usury Usury? Turkish Fatwa Casts Doubt On Erdogan’s Religious Soft Power Drive

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When Is Usury Usury? Turkish Fatwa Casts Doubt On Erdogan’s Religious Soft Power Drive


Submitted by James M. Dorsey

Turkey’s state-controlled top religious authority has conditionally endorsed usury in a ruling that is likely to fuel debate about concepts of Islamic finance and could weaken President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s efforts to garner religious soft power by projecting Turkey as a leader defending Muslim causes.

The ruling, issued by the Directorate of Religious Affairs or Diyanet that is part of Mr. Erdogan’s office, stated that interest-based home loans were exempted from the 1,400-year-old ban on interest as a form of usury, provided they were extended by a Turkish state bank for the purchase of real estate in a government housing project.

The ruling is widely being seen as serving the interests of Mr. Erdogan’s government rather than a reform of Islam.

“The fatwa is likely to be a hot discussion for a number of weeks or months… We’ll have to see if the fatwa will really increase Islamic mortgage markets. I assume that is the main reason why they made such a controversial fatwa… It will strengthen those opposed to Islamic finance,” said Indonesian Islamic finance scholar Fauziah Rizki Yuniarti.

The fatwa was issued in the wake of reports that Mr. Erdogan had pressured commercial banks to continue granting cheap loans to boost the construction industry. Responsible for the construction of affordable housing, the government’s Housing Development Administration has become an important driver of the Turkish economy that has fuelled an increase in home sales.

The fatwa came days before Mr. Erdogan rattled financial markets by reverting for the first time in two months to his tirade against high interest rates that he asserts bankrupt businesses and fuel inflation. In a surprise move, Mr. Erdogan appointed in November a new central bank governor and promised to adhere to more orthodox monetary policies that would include higher interest rates in a bid to stem a slide of the Turkish lira.

The fatwa, much like Mr. Erdogan’s hesitancy to criticize China’s brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims in its north-western province of Xinjiang, is likely to cast doubt on Turkey’s religious soft power efforts that involve not only voicing support for Muslim causes but also the construction of mosques in far-flung places across the globe as well as efforts to shape the religious and political beliefs of Turkish diaspora communities in Europe.

Turkish diplomats are likely to use the fatwa to counter mounting criticism in Europe from French President Emmanuel Macron and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who have been leading a crackdown on political Islam and pointing fingers at Turkey because it supports groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.

After swiping insults in recent months, Messrs. Macron and Erdogan have sought to dial down tensions. Mr. Macron last week responded positively to a New Year message in which Mr. Erdogan expressed condolences for several violent attacks in France last year.

The message was part of Turkish efforts to take the sharp edge off its multiple regional disputes that involve European nations as well as Israel and Saudi Arabia. The moves were in anticipation of US President-elect Joe Biden taking office and in advance of European Union and NATO summits that could censor Turkey.

“Turkey is an ally, that in many ways… is not acting as an ally should and this is a very, very significant challenge for us and we’re very clear-eyed about it,” said Anthony Blinken, Mr. Biden’s nominee for Secretary of State, during his Senate confirmation hearing on Monday.

A Turkish plan to open three schools in Germany has run into opposition from conservative and left-wing politicians. Turkey argues that the schools would be responding to community demands that students have an opportunity to opt for Turkish as an elective alongside other foreign languages.

Markus Blume, general secretary of the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), asserted that “we don’t want Erdogan schools in Germany.”

Left Party member of parliament Sevim Dagdelen charged that “it is fatal for the government to negotiate the opening of private schools in Germany while the Turkish autocrat drives the critical intelligentsia of his country into prison or exile.”

The school controversy came amid a heated debate about a plan to train imams of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), one of Germany’s largest Muslim associations that maintains close ties to Mr. Erdogan’s religious affairs directorate.

The training would compete with a similar course at the University of Osnabruck that has been endorsed by Germany’s Council of Muslims whose 15-20,000 members include Muslims of German and Arab as well as Turkish descent.

The government has pressured DITIB, which operates close to 900 of Germany’s 2,600 mosques and employs 1,100 Turkish-funded and trained imams, to opt for German-educated clerics who in contrast to their Turkish counterparts are fluent in German.

The government stopped subsidizing DITIB in 2018 while Germany’s intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, reclassified the group as a nationalist rather than a religious organisation.

It will take more than a fatwa on interest to counter increasingly deep-seated Western distrust of Mr. Erdogan even if Western elites may read the ruling as an indication that the Turkish president potentially is mellowing.

Mr. Erdogan may, however, have to explain his apparent willingness to opportunistically break with religious norms to a Muslim world in which he ranks as one of the most popular figures despite widespread elite hostility towards him.

A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud, ItunesSpotifyStitcherTuneInSpreakerPocket CastsTumblr, Podbean, Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.


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Servet Köseoğlu

Turkey is an ally, that in many ways… is not acting as an ally should and this is a very, very significant challenge for us and we’re very clear-eyed about it

Cut the shit … Brett McGurk’ appointment and Supplying thousands of containers brand new weapons to Ypg/pkk is literally acting as an ally isnt it?


you miserable dog

Servet Köseoğlu

lmao…still writing tons of bullcrap…even hookers have a dignity but obviously you dont have…xD


you lowly dogs talk about dignity where is your dignity tell me is it in your animalistic terrorist behaviors or is it in your empty nationalism because all i saw in turkey is the same degeneracy that you see in europe only with a taste of an extremely fake islam

Servet Köseoğlu

Farbat aka hans meier..Listen to me carefully: ı am not attacking to your nationality. You are definitely silly person not worth even answering but sometimes ı feel myself to answer. For unknown reason you are obssesed with me,Turks.You are like a lazy hotel maid sweeping all dirt under the carpet by generalising people which shows you are uneducated. Show me just one line from my side against İranians culture,traditions. The problem with you ı wrote dozen of times you dont have dignity(not iranians you personally).

Where ı live Antalya(hundreds of thousands İranian tourist visiting),ı have lots of İranian friends and elder people whom ı helped and will help them without any mutual interest.You are racist that is clear and moron.Racist+moron is a poisonous combo.İf İran has a majority of people like you well İran is doomed..xD

Leif Oskar Zetterstrøm

All religions are extremely fake.


obviously you have dignity to bend things as you like and certainly millions of muslims seeing this hypocracy and usury will think of you being very dignified -.-


so its alcohol next?


how about gambling?


how about prostitution?


turkey is utterly corrupt and you dare to call yourselves muslims


btw turkish has gambling alcohol and prostitution so you just need a fatwa at this point by your fake clergics to get over it


Just wow.
علاوه بر اسپم کردن، حالا فحاشی هم یاد گرفتی؟ بسه دیگه بابا، خجالت بکش


why dont you call yourselves not a lost jewish tribe you miserable scum


you turks will suffer for this insolence more than you can imagine


Also they’re sanctioning Turkiye because of buying S-400s from Russians. A true ”ally” indeed.

Servet Köseoğlu

S-400 is just pretex to cover the real structural,existential problems.

Concrete Mike

Thats what you get for dancing with the devil!



Serves you right for trusting the americans to the detriment of your neighbors.

Serve you right for exporting zionist supporting jihad!

Servet Köseoğlu

NOONE WANTS MERCY FROM YOU OR COUNTRİES YOU MENTİONED ??? Lets see how americans can cope in middle-east without Turks..???


turks are lowly dogs that was clear but now we know how low they really are


The lowest point a human being can go is to become a brainless iranian self whipping piece of shit like you all are. Thats the reason why you all are living in misery and poverty while sitting on such big natural resources.

Backwards and shithole country ran by religious fanatics , thats your iran.


Oh please do shut up, both of you and @farbat.


where are you living anyway to ignore all this insolence of the turks and i can tell you that many of us mazandaranis arent agreeing with anything that involves turks when it comes to iranian policy and the turks should have been allowed to be destroyed by their own allies


Northern Tehran.


gulen should have taken over turkey and we should have leveled turkey and taken it to teach them a lesson in humility something they dont know anything about


our martyr general soleimani got martyred because he tried to safe people like these turks and look how they thank us with their constant aggressive wishful land grabbing behaviors towards iranians


this fatwa is worthless turks are dogs and no turk dog can talk about islam while they are daesh headquarter

Concrete Mike

Hahah exacly, see my post above.


Here is islam understanding of a regular iranian peasant. Whipping itself in the name of Islam.
Why you iranians are so backwards , primitive and bigoted?

Do you know what is the worst thing can happen to Turkey ? It is becoming a shithole like iran . This is the lowest point a state can go down to.
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Hitting oneself with chain or cutlass is forbidden by law in Iran, but a British Shi’a cult (Shirazi) does this and is at odds with the Iranian leader because he declared it Haram and forbidden for it harms one’s body. There’s a penalty for it (fine and jail).

The same guys who licked the shrine (funny the complete footage which came out later shows him wiping the shrine with alcohol first) do it. The same guys whose leader resides in London and somehow has 22 TV sat channels with less than 100k followers.
Last Moharram they did so in London and the British foreign ministry condemned Iranian government for the “limitation imposed on its people to do religious ceremonies”.

I don’t support what @farbat wrote at all and find it illiterate, idiotic and divisive, but Nice try on your part.

Tommy Jensen

They are sinners.
I think Garga is right. All these weird customs including head chopping have roots in the British Empire.


Why are you name-calling a whole country of more than 82mn of people?
Do you think average Turkish citizen has a say in what Erdogan does?
Think a little before rushing into writing these nonsenses of yours.


name calling all of them since all of them are a failure


the whole turkish issue is a whole society issue and you see it here in iran for god sakes when i go into a turkish supermarket which exists in iran than i will see people “turk” who believe that all belongs to them they basically treat iranians like scum in their own country telling them that all is “turk”


First, you are mixing our Azarbaijanis with Turks. Azaris (and even Azeris, people of the republic of Azerbaijan) are Iranians whose dialect is similar to Turkish.

Second, our Azaris are hardworking and decent people. I don’t know what is your experience but I see nothing but respect whenever I go as a customer to a grocery shop whose owner is an Azari. Those shop owners up very early in the morning and work until midnight and all of them started young from being help in the shop, work hard until they have enough money to open their own business.

Neither I am nor anybody in my family is Azari but I lived a few years in one of our Azari-speaking cities (picked a few words there). I have nothing but good memories, they treated me well, taught me their dialect, were polite and smiling and shop-owners were fair and didn’t try to screw me over when I didn’t understand their dialect. I formed a few friendships that continued to this day.
Ayatollah Khamenei himself is an Azari for crying outloud!

I had more or less the same experience in Turkey (almost all my travels to Turkey were business related. There I met a few of their industry giants and found them down-to-earth people and respectful, never faced any problem with them business-wise (a complete opposite to Emirati businessmen I had the misfortune to get to know). Tourist traps in Istanbul and scammers are another story but it’s not limited to Turkey. My friend’s wallet, watch, phone and jewellery were stolen in Paris by a few young boys threatening him by knife, right in the middle of Shamp Elysee after dark.

I haven’t been to Baku so I can’t talk about there and its people.

Every country and nation has good and bad people, try to avoid generalizing. I do not like the current government of Turkey or the Aliyev regime, but what they do is not the same as their people.

I don’t know what caused you to have such an awful experience right here in Iran, but as a general rule people tend to treat you the way you treat them.

The Objective

Which idiot wrote this article about the fatwa? I’ve got to explain some basic things to you.
Islam does not prohibit the use of wisdom in dealing with everyday circumstances that affects the well-being of the masses. For example, pork is forbidden to eat. but there are conditions where it becomes permissible to eat, like when there no other food and you’re starving with no hope.
The same thing applies to every other law in Islam. You have to fully understand the circumstances that warranted such a fatwah. For example, if issuing that fatwa averts a much bigger peril for the Turkish Muslim community, then the scholars might have deemed it more beneficial than not issuing it, and hence permissible for the moment. the writer used the word “TEMPORARILY”. Again, this is not changing any Islamic rules. It only applies to Turkey for their current situation, which the scholars must have accessed.
The bottom line is, this fatwa could right or wrong. But this author clearly is ignorant and does not qualify to discuss such matters. He admits that scholars will debate the issue. But the author (a total ignoramus on Islam), has drawn conclusions already, without presenting any arguments backed by the Qur’an, and Sunnah. Hence, this is just another propaganda piece as usual.

Diana Cornwell

Why are you calling the writer names? Everyone knows that Islam forbids interest charging. Yet you are claiming that there will be a disaster in Turkey if Turks cannot sell real estate by charging interest for it. We all know that this is not true. Turkey will not disappear if Turks can’t charge interest to sell houses.
You disparage the writer for not corroborating the facts he presents with direct quotes from the Quran. Yet, you are guilty of the same “crime”.
Where is YOUR quote from the Quran which condones the charging of interest or usury? If you can’t provide it, that’d make you a dishonest liar who is misleading his audience.


That is how having double standards looks like.

The Objective

I didn’t say the Quran permits charging of interest. What I said was, every Islamic prohibition can be permissible under certain circumstances. I made an example with pork.
again, I didn’t claim that Turkey is facing an impending disaster because I don’t know much of what’s going on in Turkey. The community of Turkish scholars might have determined that such a fatwa was necessary to avert some major problem.
My point is that the author does not qualify to discuss such matters. This is because of three reasons:
1) He didn’t know or explain the situations that led to such a fatwa
2) He didn’t provide the reasons (religious grounds) Turkish scholars gave for that fatwa. How can he start cross-examining any religious and non-religious justification by the Turkish scholars if he mentions none in his article?
3) He didn’t give any Islamic explanations on usury and the conditions under which it becomes permissible.

Some years back, the organization of Scholars in my country did issue a similar fatwa regarding Federal Government loans which had about 3% interest. That loan was benefiting the non-Muslims even though Muslims wanted to benefit as well. The people were in difficulty. Hence, the body of scholars temporarily permitted that loan (from the government ONLY). The reasoning was quite simple: People were in difficulties. The government never prosecutes or seizes any property of someone who’s unable to payback the loans (Something private organizations won’t do). Neither will the government enslave anyone with ever multiplying interests if they fail to pay back. The scholars reasoned that the harm that may befall the Muslim population if they are unable to pay back is far less than the harm not taking the loan to boast their businesses and relief other pressing issues (which was quite severe throughout the country).

I don’t know the situation in Turkey that warranted this fatwa. It was the author’s responsibility to explain that situation, and then tell us why usury cannot be permitted even under such circumstances.

Diana Cornwell

“every Islamic prohibition can be permissible under certain circumstances.”

Since you Muslims will decide what those “certain circumstances”, you can pretty much decide to do anything you like. Don’t you see how illogical and hubristic you are? You Muslims are claiming you can go against the word of God, the Quran.

“He didn’t know or explain the situations that led to such a fatwa”

The only possible reason which anyone with a brain would know is, to enable the constructors to sell homes they otherwise could not because people don’t have the cash necessary to buy them. So they have to borrow it.

“He didn’t provide the reasons (religious grounds) Turkish scholars gave for that fatwa.”

How could he when NONE was given because there are NONE? There are no “religious grounds” for the promotion of making profits by selling houses! Religion is about doing what is best for God; religion is not about bankers and constructors making money. It is being said in Europe that Islam is not a religion, it’s just a political system used by the ruling classes to get their way. Your statements are supportive of this fact. If you Muslims wanted people to have homes, you would sell them to people without charging any interest. That’s a fact.

“Some years back, the organization of Scholars in my country did issue a similar fatwa regarding Federal Government loans which had about 3% interest.”

Again, why are charging ANY interest in a Muslim country? The Quran prohibits it BUT charging interest to another Muslim simply amounts to taking advantage of him by another Muslim. Muslims are supposed to be brothers and help each other. Why are rich Muslims or Muslim governments charging any interest at all when both the Quran and simple logic dictate that this hurts the needy and the less wealthy members of society by transferring wealth from the poor to the rich?

You Muslims are great hypocrites it seems.

Diana Cornwell

@Iranian posters,
If the Turks are bad, what do you think of the Azeris who are also Turks?
The Azeris are still abducting Armenian women in Karabakh and torturing them to death even after the war now is over. This woman’s hands, feet and ears had been cut off by the Azeri fighters:


and armenian men are more woman than their females i guess

Diana Cornwell

Here’s another beautiful Armenian woman abducted and taken prisoner by the Turks and the Azeris. I shudder to think what the Azeris and the Turks must be doing to her now. Her capture has been confirmed by the European Court of Human Rights. So why did you Iranians support the Azeris who are the same as the Turks some of you claim to hate?


isnt armenia like a russian colony by now so why dont you tell this to your colonial masters

Diana Cornwell

I don’t want to imagine what the Turks and the Azeris must be doing to this lovely lady. The Azeris/Turks never address the atrocities they keep committing as we can all see.
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nobody wants to hear what europeans have to say about anything specially ones who show off a british flag

Diana Cornwell

So you hate Turks but love Azeris. So you can’t be honest and answer a straight question.
Thanks for confirming my “European prejudice” that both Turks and Iranians are birds of a feather. Your president is an Azeri, Iranian. Your president is a Turk, in other words.
Such hypocrisy and dishonesty on the part of this Iranian who displays such gratuitous bluster in the anonymity of the internet…
You are no better than the Azeris or the Turks.
I’m watching President Biden’s inauguration now. I hope he will deal firmly with the lot of you over there.

Tommy Jensen
Tommy Jensen

I urge France to refrain from police violence against peaceful frog eaters who only want a little freedom.

Usury is basically usury when you pay interest for a loan. Its among the beauties of Islam they hang on to this universal rule, and why Islam is so hated among the money exchangers and war mongers.

The Torah: Kill the usury banners where ever they are.
The Bible: Only Joos are exempted from usury and taxes. All other people must pay usury or die.

Guess why Kings, Popes, Western Presidents, Politicians, Oligarchs are all seen fokking the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem??
No, its not of religious reasons.

cechas vodobenikov

in this regard the turk govt adopts a practical approach to current economic challenges
investment in people and infrastructure will benefit ordinary Turkish people; it should be observed that this only applies to state institutions

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