Commission Rejects Secularists Education Bill

ANKARA (Reuter)–A Turkish parliamentary commission said on Tuesday it had rejected as unconstitutional a secularist education bill at the heart of a dispute between Islamists and the secular establishment.

"After discussions we rejected the bill on the basis of it being against the constitution," education commission chief Tayyar Altikulac told Reuters. He did not specify the reasons for the ruling.

Islamists reject the education reforms–which envisage lengthening compulsory state schooling to eight years from five–as a direct attack on the role of religious schools. The law would effectively close the middle section of religious schools.

Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz has vowed to push through the secularist plans despite Islamist street protests last week which turned violent.

Parliament is expected to debate the draft law after it has been considered by several commissions. The education commission has only an advisory role and cannot block the passage of the bill.

According to media reports–critics of the bill consider as unconstitutional a clause in the bill related to the role of the religious affairs directorate in religious education.

The planning and budget commission–whose approval is needed before a parliament debate on the bill–entered the second day of discussions on the draft on Tuesday.

Secularist education was a key demand in a campaign launched by the military in February against religious activism that helped topple the government of Necmettin Erbakan–Turkey’s first Islamist leader.

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