Turkey’s ‘tattoo fatwa’ gets a lot of ink

Published: January 10, 2015
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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly made clear his belief that tattoos are harmful and immoral.  PHOTO: REUTERS

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly made clear his belief that tattoos are harmful and immoral. PHOTO: REUTERS

Turkey’s top religious body on Friday urged Muslims unable to remove their tattoos to beg God for forgiveness, the latest intervention in a growing controversy over body art in the country, reported AFP. Religious authorities in the officially secular Turkey frown on tattoos, even though they are highly fashionable, especially among the young, urban population.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics accuse of seeking to impose a creeping Islamisation on the country, has repeatedly made clear his belief that tattoos are harmful and immoral. “A person with a tattoo should remove it, if possible. He/she should repent to God if the tattoo cannot be removed,” Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet in Turkish, said in a fatwa.

It reaffirmed that all forms of body art are banned by Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and suggested that they should, if possible, be removed either by laser or surgery. “Our Prophet (PBUH) has said ‘Allah curses the people who change their shape created by God’, be it a woman with tattoos or someone who removes hair from their face or eyebrows,” it added.

The authority elucidated that although taboo, tattoos would “not prevent making ablutions,” a self-cleaning process prescribed in Islam, reported Al-Arabiya News. Erdogan, a practising Muslim, has already made clear his distaste for tattoos, telling a promising 18-year-old footballer in July last year to get rid of the tattoos on his arm. “What are these tattoos? Why do you harm your body like that?” said Erdogan, who has raised eyebrows over promoting a conservative agenda in a secular Turkey. “Don’t be fooled by foreigners. God forbid, it could even give you skin cancer in the future.”

In September, the government banned school pupils from having tattoos and body piercings as well as wearing make-up, dyeing of hair and a moustache and beard for boys.  The government ruling, issued on September 27 last year, read that students “are to be present in schools with their faces visible; cannot use scarves, berets, hats, bags or similar materials that feature political symbols, pictures or writings; cannot dye their hair, cannot have tattoos or make-up; cannot have piercings and cannot have moustaches or beards.”

The edict surfaces in the wake of a series of events that have raised eyebrows over Erdogan’s tilt towards instilling an Islamic agenda across the country, especially in schools. Interestingly, in a recent omission from the Turkish school syllabus, Christopher Columbus’ name was removed after Erdogan claimed that Muslim scholars discovered the Americas in the 12th century, reported secularism.org.uk. “It is alleged that the American continent was discovered by Columbus in 1492. In fact, Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178,” he said in his initial remarks.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Sam
    Jan 11, 2015 - 6:47AM

    So now “God” objects to tattoos? I wonder what his thoughts are on using smart phones and Facebook.

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  • H. W. Hutchins
    Jan 11, 2015 - 9:18AM

    ‘Allah curses the people who change their shape created by God?’ There are many circumcisions in Turkey.

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  • John B
    Jan 11, 2015 - 9:38AM

    “Muslim sailors reached the American continent 314 years before Columbus, in 1178,”

    Cannot understand where all this nonsense is coming from. Heard the speed of light calculations and now this !

    Mr.President, Vikings were in North America before Columbus and there are both archeological and contemporary written evidences with crude map and records by a Danish bishop. Even before them, native Americans were in America and helped the Vikings. It was Columbus who had chartered a sea route to America and make it navigable to all in the days of rediscovery.

    According to this fatwa plastic surgery or eye brow teasing by muslim women are not allowed. In Iran rhinoplasty is common and shia clerics approved this. Nearly, all women trim their eye brows and wear make up and jewelry. So, what does this fatwa mean ? Does it also apply to PAK women?

    Here comes the first round of Islamization of Turkey women and outgoes EU membership request.

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  • fifi
    Jan 12, 2015 - 8:07PM

    there will be two kinds ofpeople, those who agree with erdogan and those who dont. what he is saying i not wrong but he shoul giv choice to people, what is the point of doing something you do not beleive in, just coz a law said you have to do it.

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  • sarah tj
    Jan 13, 2015 - 12:24AM

    @Sam: actually you will never understand this because you are living with manmade laws but muslim laws are made by ALLAH.
    tatoos were always forbidden in our religion no need to tell you why because your prejudice will not let u see my point of view besides its not necessary to seek rationality of every law because we trust ALLAH and HE never decides any harmful
    thing for us.

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