ISTANBUL – One of the most senior members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government sparked an outcry Tuesday after declaring that women should not laugh loudly in public.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, one of the co-founders of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), made the comment while lamenting the moral decline of modern society.
“A man should be moral but women should be moral as well, they should know what is decent and what is not decent,” Arinc said in a speech Monday in the western Bursa region for the Bayram holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.
“She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times,” he added.
Turkish women took to social media in droves to denounce Arinc’s comments, posting pictures of themselves deliriously laughing under the hashtags #kahkaha (#laughter) and #direnkahkaha (#resistlaughter) which have now gone viral.
The ruling AKP is accused by critics of seeking to erode Turkey’s strict separation of religion and state — the basis of the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
In comments quoted throughout the Turkish media and online, Arinc went on to denounce a moral degradation that has left society awash with drugs and prostitution, and lashed out at popular Turkish soap operas for encouraging lax lifestyles.
He pointed to the use of bonzai, a synthetic drug which has become a craze in some parts of low-income Turkish society and is now a serious social problem.
“We have to rediscover the Quran. We have gone backward, morally,” said Arinc. “We have become a very different society.”
Arinc also said a man should be strongly “tied to his wife and love his children” while a woman should “protect her husband’s honor.”
He denounced the excessive use of cars, saying that if even the “River Nile was filled with gasoline,” there wouldn’t be enough to go around.
Arinc also slammed the excessive use of mobile phones in Turkish society, with women “spending hours on the phone to swap recipes.”
Imitating a Turkish woman on her mobile, he said, ” ‘Is there nothing else going on? What happened to Ayse’s daughter? When’s the wedding?’ “
“People should say these things face to face,” he added.