No hand holding for engaged couples in Turkey – religious watchdog

© Murad Sezer
Engaged couples in Turkey have been warned to keep public displays of affection, such as “holding hands and other” non-Islamic behaviors, to a minimum by state-run religious affairs agency Diyanet.

Couples are advised to “refrain from flirting, living together, staying together tete-a-tete in a way that could give rise to gossip, holding hands and other behaviors that are not endorsed by Islam.”

The agency was responding to the question: “Is it appropriate for those who are engaged to be married to be able to see each other?”

“There is no harm in engaged couples meeting to get to know each other, as long as they follow the rules of privacy,” the agency responded.

Diyanet is a state-funded religious agency. It recently gained press attention for issuing a fatwa okaying the use of toilet paper for Muslims.

As Turkey is officially a secular nation, the statements published by the agency carry no legal weight. However, while some parts of the country like Istanbul are more secular, large areas of the country still remain very conservative.

Turkish parents have been complaining that it is increasingly difficult to find non-religious schools to send their children to after education reform greatly expanded the religious content of regular academic high schools.

READ MORE: Surrogate motherhood is like adultery, religiously unacceptable – Turkey's clerics

While the perceived gradual Islamization of Turkey has faced some criticism, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insists that authorities are only trying to provide more religious freedom to devout Muslims.