Prosecutors rule there’s ‘no reason to investigate’ Turkish cleric who called homosexuality ‘evil’ during Ramadan sermon

Ali Erbaş: Turkish cleric who called gays 'evil' escapes investigation

The Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office has said there is “no reason to investigate” senior Turkish cleric Ali Erbaş who called homosexuality “evil”.

Erbaş, who is the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, used a sermon on April 24, at the start of Ramadan, to call on people to oppose the “evil” of homosexuality.

He said: “Islam curses homosexuality. Homosexuality brings with it illnesses and decay to lineage. Let’s work together to protect people from such evil.”

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan even waded into the row in a public address, saying that Erbaş’ anti-LGBT+ message was “totally right”.

The cleric’s inflammatory comments – as well as the suggestion that gay people are in some form responsible for the spread of disease – were condemned by human rights groups and the Ankara Bar Association, which submitted a criminal complaint to the prosecutor’s office.

According to Bianet, the Ankara Bar Association said: “If Erbaş remained in office despite his remarks about LGBTI+ [people]… no one should be surprised if, in his next speech, he called on people to light torches and burn women as witches at the squares.”

It added that Ali Erbaş, “whose voice was coming from ages ago, incited the public to enmity and hatred by presiding over a state institution and building his discourse on values held sacred.”

But in its “decision of non-investigation” the prosecutor’s office said: “President of Religious Affairs Erbaş, by the authority vested in him by laws, read out the Friday sermon referring to Islam’s orders and prohibitions.”

It added: “[The] President of Religious Affairs’ mentioning of Islam’s orders and prohibitions and his suggestions and teachings in that regard can in no way be considered crimes of ‘hate and discrimination’ or ‘inciting the public to enmity and hatred and indignity’.”

Instead of investigating the hate spread by Erbaş, the Ankara chief public prosecutor’s office began its own investigation on April 27 into the Ankara Bar Association for its comments against him.

The associations executives face the possible charge of “degrading religious values”.