Turkey adopts bill extending access to Islamic schooling



ISTANBUL- Turkish lawmakers on Friday overwhelmingly adopted an education bill which extends access to religious schools and has infuriated the country's secularists.
The bill was supported by 295 MPs and opposed by 91 in a house dominated by the Justice and Development Party, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's moderate Islamist movement, the Anatolia news agency reported.



The reform extends compulsory education from eight years to 12 but also scraps a ban on so-called Imam Hatip religious schools signing up pupils under the age of 15.
The schools, originally set up to train Muslim clerics, have been increasingly sought by conservative families anxious to keep their children away from secular state schools.
The ruling party argues the new law is better suited to the needs of both the job market and families as it allows children to opt for specialised curricula from the age of 10.
"This law will go down in history as an important step in the reconciliation between the state and the people," Education Minister Omer Dincer said, quoted by Anatolia.
Since it rose to power in 2002, Erdogan's party had made several attempts to reform the educational system but had always been thwarted by the powerful military, which sees itself as the custodian of Turkey's secular character.
The secular opposition People's Republican Party has accused Erdogan of seeking to Islamise Turkish youth.
Police used tear gas on Thursday to break up a demonstration by thousands of secularists protesting the bill.
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Saturday, March 31st 2012
AFP
           


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