Turkey’s Religious Affairs Presidency outlined plans for a 10-day trip to Saudi Arabia for school children during their semester break, drawing accusations from opposition politicians and teachers’ unions that it is trampling the country’s principle of secularism, Vatan reported.
In a Jan. 5 note to provincial education directorates, the state’s religious watchdog proposed a trip for elementary- and high-school students covering five days each in Mecca and Medina, the Istanbul-based newspaper said. Muslims visit the cities for the religious pilgrimage of Hajj during the last month of the Islamic calendar or for a visit known as an umrah at any other time of the year. The presidency is offering packages ranging from 760 euros ($970) to 875 euros for students and teachers.
The government is turning national education into religious education, said lawmaker Nur Serter, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, according to Vatan. It also cited the chairmen of the Egitim-Is and Egitim-Sen unions as saying the government is seeking to shape society with religious tenets and remove science from education.
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