II. Abant Platform "Religion, State and Society"

Final Declaration:

As a group of scientists and intellectuals in Turkey , we came together on July 9-11, 1999 , at Bolu/Abant. Discussing subjects that we believe occupy an important place on the country's agenda, we decided to convey to the public's attention the following matters:

Reason-Divine Inspiration Relationship

1) Identifying and determining in a sound way the relationship between the reason and divine inspiration carries a vital importance for the future of our country, the Islamic world and all mankind.

2) Islamic inspiration addresses the reason and it should not be seen as a rival or opposing factor. For this reason, in the history of Islamic thought it has been considered a religious necessity to use the reason in a positive direction. However, from time to time the Islamic world has not fulfilled this requirement sufficiently.

3) According to Islam, the essential duty of understanding what divine inspiration has informed us of falls to the reason. We should be careful to take into consideration the whole of divine inspiration when we are trying to understand and interpret its variables, and we should be aware that satisfying results cannot be drawn from fragmented approaches.

4) Regarding the reason/divine inspiration relationship, it should not be forgotten that inspiration is a divine method of conveying knowledge and that, even in the broadest sense, the reason is a human vehicle for obtaining knowledge.

5) The acceptance that there is discordance between divine inspiration and the reason gives birth to tension between religion and knowledge, between the state and religion and, in fact, between life and religion.

6) When it is claimed that there is discordance between divine inspiration and the reason, then there is a question of incorrect evaluation of the reason or divine inspiration. In this case, it's possible to solve the problem by reconsidering it, because the growth of our accumulation of knowledge will help us better understand the truths put forth by divine inspiration.

Religion-State Relationship

7) Considering the religion-state relationship only from its legal and political aspects would be deficient and misleading. When taking a scientific approach to the subject, sociological, cultural and historical variables, events and time processes must be taken into consideration. This relationship and its offspring, laicism, have been placed on a relatively sound foundation in the West today after long struggle and disruptions. This situation in the West cannot be explained by the claim that Christianity is amenable to democracy and laicism, whereas in the Islamic World, Islam is not amenable to the development of democracy. The conflict between the church and state in the West rests on historical foundations, and the social structure and economic developments have a big share in it.

A strong theocratic political structure's dominating the West from the time Christianity was accepted as the official religion and dominated the government until the bourgeois revolutions is an indication that Christianity isn't as amenable to laicism as is thought. With one or two exceptions, in the legal establishment of Western States, there are references to religion in the Constitutions. Together with this, the religion/state relationship was placed on a laic foundation. Modernization efforts that began in 19 th century Ottoman society and made a big leap forward with Ataturk took an attitude not against the essence of religion itself, but against traditions, appearances and worn out institutions that passed as religion. It is natural in this process of development that some difficulties and friction occur as they did in the West.

Since the last quarter of the 20 th century, the whole world has been experiencing as a social phenomenon a return to religion and the spiritual sphere. If at first there appear efforts to continue the historical and traditional formation, social segments experiencing the process of turning towards religion are aware that there is compatibility between the contemporary democratic and liberalistic goals and economic dynamism of the Republic and the high values in the essence of Islam. For this reason, this visible contemporary tendency doesn't show any similarity to the traditional reaction in the period of the Ottoman collapse and yearning to return to the past.

8) When placing the religion-state relationship on a sound foundation, instead of taking only one Western country as an example, our country's social and historical conditions should be taken into consideration when benefiting from implementations in democratic states based on law.

9) In religion-state relationships, social, legal and political reconstruction should be made in accordance with the requirements of contemporary democracy. In regard to this, the requirements of human rights and freedoms mentioned in international agreements and declarations to which Turkey is a party, especially freedom of thought, religion and belief, should be carefully protected. Basic rights and freedoms that are democratic and egalitarian, with an eye to justice and equity, and that are the basis of legitimacy should be given priority in a concept of a legal state based on universal moral principles. The protection of the state's unbiasedness before ideas, political inclinations and different systems of belief and sects and its approaching the individual in an unbiased way carries great significance in the concept of a contemporary state.

10) As long as there is no insult and cursing or slander made or as long as no concrete and clear call is made to violate others' human rights, the freedom to express one's ideas should be unlimited in principle. In arrangements on this subject, the body of current international law and the law's general principles should be made use of.

11) The right of freedom to express ideas brings with it the right not to express ideas. No one can be forced to express his ideas. However, violations of human rights and protests contrary to the principles of a democratic state based on law can be questioned. No one should be reproached for statements that are not contrary to the principles of a democratic state based on law.

12) In the usage of freedoms other than the freedom to express one's ideas, the opportunity to exercise these rights cannot be taken from anyone as long as there is no violation of others' human rights or the civil order of a democratic state based on law, or as long as there is no action to take over the state that constitutes a clear crime according to the law.

13) The state should not take an oppressive attitude towards the freedoms of thought and belief. Such an attitude can lead to the individual becoming alienated to the existing social structure and an increase of offended groups.

14) The duty of a contemporary social state is to provide opportunities and open the way to develop people's economic and social rights and the freedom of belief. The state is a vehicle for making a contribution, not obstacle, to the individual and society's intellectual and sp Some of the difficulties in our country in the field of religion-state relations stem from a breakdown of communications, misunderstanding and mutual distrust between the individual, with his request for civil rights, and the liberal representatives of the government. Taking the problem under consideration on this plane will facilitate a solution.

15) In order to attain a social structure that is based on peace, freedom, contemporary democracy, tolerance and dialogue, responsibility of a universal dimension befalls, first of all, the government, civil organizations, intellectuals and especially the media. In this manner religion/state relations can rest on a rational and humane foundation.

Religion-Society Relations

16) From a social perspective, religion is a truth that manifests in different forms in the lives of the individual and society.

17) Every child is born into a culture and his religious identity is formed within the family. Religious identity is individual. It is chosen and lived with the individual's free will. No one can be prevented from choosing a religious identity, living it as an individual or within a community or changing it.

18) Religion is one of life's and culture's main components and a basic source of common values. In order for a person to sufficiently experience his religiosity and build it with consciousness, a religious life based on free will, rather than on force from outside, is necessary.

19) On the condition of remaining within the order of the law, organization in the civil field, even if it is on a religious axis, should not be prevented. One of the requirements of democracy is developing a living area where differences can co-exist.

20) Just as there is no uniform modernization, there is no absolute conflict between religion and modernization.

21) The progress-reactionaryism axis that is debated in the historical process that a society lives should not be grounded in religion. All reactionaries are not religious and all religious people are not reactionary.

22) Problems experienced in religion/society relations can be overcome by making various scientific investigations.

23) Polarization and intolerance among different segments of society damage social harmony.

24) From a social perspective, religious pluralism (various sects and religions) should be accepted as an enriching and positive value in the society.

25) Neither traditions that are presented as religious-based nor politically or ideologically forced issues should restrict women. A woman naturally possesses the right to act with her own free will in both the private and public spheres.

26) In order to place religious-social relations on a sound foundation, the quality of religious education and religious services should be raised.

27) Cultural and religious values are an important bridge in Turkey 's foreign relations.

28) The principle, "A journalist cannot directly attack the cultural values and beliefs (or disbeliefs) of a country, society or individual," stated in the Turkish Journalists' Association's Proclamation of the Turkish Journalists' Rights and Responsibilities, should be made operative and valid for the whole media.

Note: The articles in this declaration were mostly accepted unanimously; some were accepted with a majority of votes. Written views of dissent or different recommendations that were given by members regarding articles that were accepted by a majority of votes will be included in the publication of the minutes.


Prof. Dr. Mehmet S. Aydin
Prof. Dr. Hayrettin Karaman
Prof. Dr. O. Faruk Harman
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Akif Aydin
Prof. Dr. Toktamis Ates
Prof. Dr. Burhan Kuzu
Prof. Dr. Ali Bardakoglu
Prof. Dr. Huseyin Hatemi
Prof. Dr. Niyazi Oktem
Prof. Dr. Bekir Karliga
Prof. Dr. A. Yuksel Ozemre
Prof. Dr. Mahmut Kaya
Prof. Dr. Mehmet Bayraktar
Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Canan
Prof. Dr. Kenan Gursoy
Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Ozdalga
Prof. Dr. Serif Ali Tekalan
Prof. Dr. Gulper Refiğ
Prof. Dr. Ismail Killioglu
Doç. Dr. Emin Koktas
Doç. Dr. Mehmet Pacaci
Doç. Dr. Busra Ersanli
Doç. Dr. A. Turan Alkan
Dr. Kadir Canatan
Dr. Ilyas Uzum
Dr. M. Ali Kilicbay
Dr. Cuneyt Ulsever
Dr. Ergun Yildirim
Dr. Aylin Akpinar
Kezban Hatemi
Gunduz Aktan
Baki Oz
Riza Akcali
Bulent Arinc
Ali Bulac
Latif Erdogan
Avni Ozgurel
Halit Refig
Mehmet Bozdemir
Rusen Çakir
Mehmet Ocaktan
Besir Ayvazoglu
Yahya Akengin
Seref Oguz
Nevval Sevindi
Mustafa Armagan
Huseyin Gulerce 8–11 July 1999

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