This paper aims to uphold a comparative analysis with regards to how freedom of religion and conscience is practiced in two rather interrelated states, being Israel and Turkey. Being regarded as a basic human practice, the topic proceeds rather controversial in countries of heterogeneous social structure and highly, politically motivated conjunctures prone to rapid change. Motivation behind why these particular states have been deem fit for a comparative study resonates with propinquities on historical commonalities, cultural and social structures emerging in mutual directions, and a somewhat analog development of constitutional methods. The emerging secular-religious divide is indeed prominent within the internal politics of both countries, which had and still to this day has a direct effect on the constitutional, legal level implications on freedom of religion and conscience within countries of concern. Therefore, it is essential to examine freedom of religion from a number of aspects.
The paper also aims to analyze the scope of protection of religious liberty and the constitutional and legal norms in the case of both countries. Initially, the paper will focus on the historical context and development for both countries in order to formulate a better understanding of how specifically freedom of religion and conscience progressed over time. Simultaneously, the responsibilities against international law, the international community and the jurisprudential repercussions with respect to these countries will be discussed, while pointing out the evolution of constitutional aspects. Finally, for both Israel and Turkey, two cases considered to be legal precedents will be analyzed in depth.
For Turkey, the Case of Sinan Işık vs. Turkey (Sinan Işık vs.Turkey, 2010) will be reviewed, as it is related to the religion box in identity cards, what it means legally and politically. For Israel, the Benjamin Shalit case (Shalit v. Minister of the Interior, 1970) will be reviewed, as it also touches upon the issue of having religion box within the identity cards, yet the controversy being born at this specific example, from the strictly intertwined concept of what “Jewish” means. Finally, a concluder remark and deduction will be made as an end product of this analysis.
TURKEY’S EXAMPLE ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND CONSCIENCE – HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The historical and political progress and practicing the freedom of religion and conscience is closely intertwined with the state organism in Turkey. Within the modern Turkish Republic, the state being separate from religion by law is indeed an important parameter, emphasizing laicism as a principle and foundations of the state. When looking at the historical development, this particular separation was non-existent in the earlier periods of the Turkish state as well as the legal system.
The Ottoman legal system was strictly based on Islamic law, which created an understanding that skeptical approaches with regards to religion or faith, would bare a great potential and danger concerning the state order, where people with such tendencies would mostly be condemned to punishments (Yaşar Ocak, 1998). The relative easing within the freedoms on religion and conscience came with two major steps, being the Rescript of Reform 1856 and with the 1876 Constitution (Kanun-i Esasi), which is considered to be the first constitution of the Ottoman Empire. Inspired from the Belgium constitution at the time, the most relevant article was as follows: “The state will protect the free exercise of faiths professed in the Empire, and uphold the religious privileges granted to various bodies, on condition of public order and morality not being interfered with” (Article 11).
Even though there are criticisms with regards how there were no explicit claims on robust protection of freedom of religion and conscience, contrary to the constitutions of the time, the fact that secular and civil tendencies later to be adopted in the legal system initiating with the Ottoman Empire and Rescript period cannot be neglected. After the period of the Rescript, the tendencies towards western values and practices of customary international law directed the route of the country towards laicism. (Özbudun, From Political Islam to Conservative Democracy: The Case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, 2006)
The Grand National Assembly, in Ankara, founded the modern Turkish State in 1920, initially adopting a new constitution (Teşkilat-ı Esasiye Kanunu) in 1921, where primarily the constitution referred to the organizational structure of the state and no rights/freedoms were regulated. However, with the amendments made in 1924, it was possible to observe the first constitutional protection on behalf of freedom of religion and conscience, embedded in Article 75. Furthermore, after an amendment in 1928 the expression ‘Islam is the religion of the state’ was excluded from the constitution, which could be regarded as another step towards “laicism”. By the year 1937, laicism, which was in the program of the sole ruling party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), was included in the Constitution. As a result of this amendment, important codes based on Islamic references were excluded from the legal system. However, the separation of religion from the state came in a later period.
For instance, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (DRA) was founded in the earlier years of the republic, in order to set a neutral tone and prevent Islamic radicalization/fundamentalism at that respect. This period is considered to be rather paradoxical, as there were Islamic references and tendencies on one side, and strict laicism on the other (Özbudun, Turkey-Plural Society and Monolithic State, 2012). Here, the Kemalist discourse of the time, until the multi-party period is open to different interpretations. What matters here is the initial and concrete efforts with regards to establishing a secular state and how it re-structured, fragmented the society in the upcoming terms.
After the transition to the multi-party democracy, it was possible to observe a different, perhaps more liberal approach from The Democratic Party (DP), which replaced the CHP after twenty-seven years of rule. Religion becoming more visible within the public sphere at this time frame resulted in the military coup of 1960, with the claims against the threats the Kemalist and secular foundation of the state. Accordingly, 1961 constitutions prepared rather neutrally, aided in positive provisions, enabling more in-depth definition and protection with regards to the freedom of religion and conscience. Article 19 stated, “every person has the freedom of conscience, religious faith and opinion and no person shall be enforced to reveal his religious beliefs or opinions, or forced to enroll in the prayers or religious rites or ceremonies”.
Contrary to the practices amended within the DP period, the provision “the education and teaching of religion depend solemnly upon the wish of the individuals or the legal representative of minors” was also included. The 1961 constitution could be regarded as perhaps the most liberating and freedom assuring constitution of the Turkish Republic, enhancing human rights and freedoms extensively (Eligür, 2010). With the effects of heightening Cold War of the time, the discourses regarding communism, and the public association of communism with atheism, increased the nationalist/religious tendencies. Turkish-Islamic Synthesist attitude was prominent in the military coup of September 12, 1980. With the following 1982 constitution, rather “Turkified”, a model of Islam, serving the state security and the nationalistic foundation of the country, was re-modeled.
“Yet again, in this Constitution, despite provisions protecting the right to freedom of conscience and religion, in contrast to the 1961 Constitution, Religious Culture and Moral Knowledge courses were made mandatory in primary education (Article 24) and the DRA became a more powerful constitutional institution (Article136)” (Yıldırım, 2014).
Furthermore, with the effects and inspiration by Article 15 of the ECHR being “no one can be oppressed to reveal his religion, conscience, thought and opinions or be charged with them” even in time of war, mobilization or other public emergency threatening events, was further regulated and emphasized. Despite many frequent amendments that were made with regard to the 1982 constitution, there hasn’t been any changes with regard to freedom of religion and conscience. With the strengthening of The Turkist/nationalist movements who were not regarded as problematic due to closer ties ideologically to Kemalism, prominently increased, which could not be said for the Islamist movements of the time, seen as a threat to Kemalist values.
In this respect, the Islamist Refah (Welfare) Party, which was in the ruling coalition of 1998, was shut down by the Constitutional Court (Anayasa Mahkemesi, hereinafter “AYM”) (Özbudun, From Political Islam to Conservative Democracy: The Case of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, 2006). However, these particular practices could be argued to create negative sentiments within the public and the supporters of the Refah Party, which has further added up to the secular-religious divide of the country, especially after the commencement of AKP rule, the predecessor of RP after 2002.
INTERNATIONAL LAW, CONSTITUTIONAL IMPACTS, AND JURISPRUDENCE:
After the end of World War II, most of the constitutions drafted regarded freedom of religion and conscience as one of the most fundamental human rights. Even though there is a strong emphasis and endorsement within the international community, there is still no covenant, a legally binding instrument that would aid in the monitoring of religious freedoms, just like in the case of other human rights such as torture, refugee and women rights.
The clarifications of international law at this respect seem silent. With the initiation of Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted in 1948 by 48 Nations, the relevant article 18 clearly states: “Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change one’s religion or belief; to hold one’s religion either alone or in community with others, in public or private; to manifest one’s religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.” Furthermore, this declaration was followed by relatively more legally obligatory endeavors in 1966, being the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Prone to criticism and attention rising with regards to effective mechanisms on protecting freedom of religion and conscience, with the United Nations Declaration on Religious Freedom (UDRF) of 1981, provisions of the prior international declarations were further manifested.
Also, it is prominent to review the European Union context, at the accession negotiations and necessities to adjust, align with European Union standards has been prominent for Turkey. It could be argued that the EU has been particularly progressive. European Convention on Human Rights, which entered into force in 1953, states clearly in Article 9 that: “freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice, and observance.”Also, the highly increasing efforts and importance of the ECHR regarding freedom of religion let to the Oslo Declaration on the Freedom of Religion and Belief in 1998, which eventually became binding for all EU countries to abide by. In this respect, it is also important to review the jurisprudential repercussions of this situation, and how the evolving constitution has indeed affected the application.
The criticism is that the subjective rights being applied and taken seriously in some aspects are tentatively under-developed within the jurisprudence. These rights protected under Article 24 within the Turkish Constitutions were openly referred to only in one set of cases in the late 1980s. The second-generation debate is firstly about taking freedom of religion as a constitutionally protected value in itself. Secondly, it is about taking subjective rights seriously. Both points are quite under-developed in the jurisprudence. Subjective rights protected under Article 24 were openly referred to only in one set of cases in the late 1980s, where in one example the Court of Cassation with regards to the criminality of solemnly being a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community and as a conclusion, ruled for the protection of their rights under Article 24. Within it’s reasoning the court stated that by being a belief system, it must be under the protection of Article 24 regardless of their identification as a religion, a sect or order (Turkish Court of Cassation Decision, 2019).
As another example regarding the constitutionality of optional religion classes, the court clearly manifests a new interpretation of secularism and religion in its relations to social dynamics. Within a secular polity, it is important according to the court to be more “flexible” and “pro-freedom” while interpreting religion, focus on collective identity and promotion of a more inclusive approach, recognizing the fact that religion and lifestyles formed at this respect are beyond the intervention and under the protection of the state. Here, the difference of constitutional application from the previously stated historical period is seeing secularism as a paramount factor protecting freedoms and liberties, rather being a prominent, concrete basis of the Turkish constitution.
Nevertheless, the Court still does not address the subjective rights relevant to the case. Furthermore, after stressing the importance of a more holistic approach, the court gives a long list of relevant provisions, where Article 24 on freedom of religion is missing. As a drastic change within the Turkish jurisprudence is rather rare, it is important to consider the commentary regarding flexibility and pro-freedom discourses yet, it can also be argued that this new change pawed for a way to accommodationism, without really putting emphasis on balancing relevant rights and non-discrimination. Moreover, after having stressed the need for an integral approach that takes all the relevant norms into account, the Court gives a long list of relevant provisions, where Article 24 on freedom of religion is absent. However, of the two keywords the Court chose to describe the change, “flexible” and “pro-freedom”, the former seems to have functioned more efficiently, while the latter resonated more pleasantly.
SINAN IŞIK VS. TURKEY CASE
Here, it is important to point out a prominent case regarding the religion box in identity cards, which was a legal precedent. The applicant Sinan Işık, who is a Turkish national, is a member of the Alevi community, where Sufism in particular influences the faith, where even some scholars would regard the sect as a separate religion. Mr. Işık applied to the court requesting the removal of the word “Islam” on his identity card, to be replaced with “Alevi”. The court’s founding were that the term “Alevi” is indeed correct, as it is considered to be a sub-branch of Islam, where eventually İzmir District Court dismissed the applicant’s request, based on the legal advice sought from Religious Affairs Directorate. He further argued that this was a violation of both the convention Article 9 alongside the Constitution Article 24 (“no one shall be compelled … to disclose his or her religious beliefs and convictions”). In addition to Article 9, Mr. Işık also relied on Articles 6 (right to a fair hearing) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination), further complaining that he was obliged to disclose his religion especially in a document which he uses frequently in his daily life.
As the Application was lodged with the ECHR, the decision was as follows: Court did not find the breach of article 9, as 2006 onwards, the obligation to have the religion clearly submitted on the identity cards were overruled, giving individuals to leave it blank. “The Court pointed out that the breach in question had arisen not from the refusal to indicate the applicant’s faith (Alevi) on his identity card but from the very fact that his identity card contained an indication of religion, regardless of whether it was obligatory or optional” (Sinan Işık vs. Turkey, 2010). The court finally ruled that there was a breach of article 9.
ISRAEL EXAMPLE – HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:
Starting off with the Palestine Mandate of 1922, it could be argued that there were a number of provisions ensuring freedom of religion and conscience, protection of holy places as well as the prohibition of discrimination. Within the mandate, through Palestine Order in Council, it was clearly stated that:
“All persons … shall enjoy full liberty of conscience and the free exercise of their forms of worship, subject only to the maintenance of public order and morals. No ordinance shall be promulgated which shall restrict complete freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship.” (Mandate for Palestine, 1922)
These rules of the Mandate were later on respected and recognized within the Israeli legal system and have been instructive with regards to the protection of conscience and religion. After Israel declared its independence, which terminated the British Mandate period in 1948, the declaration indeed became another legal source guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscience, alongside the social and political rights of citizens. Although there is no concrete wording within the declaration itself, the High court clearly stated that the declaration “provides a pattern of life for citizens of the State and requires every State authority to be guided by its principles (Perez v Kfar Shmaryahu, 1948)”.
As Israel does not have a written constitution due to constant clashes between the secular law and Halacha (Jewish religious law), there is quite extensive reliance on case law, as it is within the UK example. Yet as denoted by the Supreme Court, basic laws such as the one discussed within this paper, should be considered as the “constitution” of the Israeli state, as ruled by Aharon Barak. Here in order to support and acknowledge the right of freedom of conscience and religion, the Supreme Court also constantly relied on Israel being defined as a democratic state. Also while dealing with questions concerning religious freedom, the courts often resorted to the guidance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. While doing this, courts required two prerequisites to be met: one being the question of concern is common within all democratic countries and there is no existence of contrary domestic law. Again in order to quote the statement of Judge Haim Cohn:
“It is decided law that rules of International law constitute part of the law prevailing in Israel insofar as they have been accepted by the majority of the nations of the world and are not inconsistent with any enactment of the Knesset (Parliament). The principles of freedom of religion are similar to the other rights of man, as these have been laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and in the Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, 1965. These are now the heritage of all enlightened peoples, whether or not they are members of the United Nations Organization and whether or not they have as yet ratified them . . . for they have been drawn up by legal experts from all countries of the world and been prescribed by the [General] Assembly of the United Nations, in which by far the larger part of the nations of the world participates” (Gutmann, 2000).
The basic law as aforementioned refers to a “Jewish Democratic State” however Judaism has not been stated as the official religion of Israel. Here it is possible to draw out the conclusion, law and practice concerning religious freedoms in Israel could be understood as a mix between a partially non-interventionist approach from the state, having a strong impact in particular situations especially on “personal status”, dealt with in religious courts funded extensively by the government authorities. As the aim of this particular court is to provide religious services to the preferring religious communities, this dichotomy in the jurisdiction is a clear indicator of the prominence of religion within the state of Israel and the political, social dominance it holds.
However, it should be noted that freedom of religion is not categorized as an absolute right and is prone to limitations and derogation if deemed necessary. It is essential that the freedom of religion be in harmony with other rights, whereas it could be restricted for reasons concerning state security and public order. With the majority of the population being Jewish, it should not be undermined that historically, Israel holds an extremely prominent geopolitical location, indeed home to many different religions, considering the land as of utmost importance.
The highly heterogeneous structure of the society, especially concerning religious diversity, makes it even more difficult to sustain a balance between secular, democratic practices and enhancing freedom of religion. Another prominent motivating factor is the political divides and on-going disputes since the establishment of the State of Israel, which should be taken into account when evaluating the legal context.
As aforementioned, the most difficult problem concerning the religious freedoms in Israel is dominated by the imposition of religious norms and restrictions rooting from a religious nature on all Jews, regardless of their religious tendencies. To know whether if this particular imposition infringes freedom of religion or not, the necessity to draw a line between norms of religious nature which are generally not recognized and accepted by the society and ones which are. The first situation such as on matters of marriage and divorce, clearly violates freedom of religion while the second situation which could be exemplified with the prescription of a days rest, in that case, does not cause a problem as it has been widely recognized and absorbed by the community regardless of religious tendencies. Justice Simon Agranat’s observation is as follows:
“This opinion involves the much-debated issue of whether the state may legislate morality or compel a moral norm. With regard to Jewish law, Justice Landau has proposed to distinguish between ‘rules which prescribe man’s behavior to his fellow man, and those which affect the relationship between man and Divinity. In this view, coercion of the former upon nonbelievers does not derogate from freedom of conscience and religion. The difficulty I find with this distinction is that it implies that there would be nothing wrong with the enforcement of conduct, religious in origin and in substance, provided only that it concerns human relations.”
Israeli law currently is a typical example concerning coercion of religious law that is not particularly accepted as norms within the Israeli society, as mentioned above. Especially the application of Jewish law on marriage and divorce, and the enforcement of citizens to the exclusive jurisdiction of the religious courts in this regard is open to criticism and with no doubt a coercive practice.
The situation can be further exemplified with the necessity to marry before a religious authority regardless of your own religious tendencies, which creates more burdens on individuals where they are forced upon involuntary actions. Many assurances, which are under the protection in most democratic states under the constitution, is in a rather ambiguous position, like a woman who has made the decision to change religion losing the right to property, the marriage of a Cohen, a man whose descent is traditionally traced to the ancient priesthood and a divorcee is forbidden. None of these matters are found to be in a statue, which is controversial. These mentioned examples are clear indicators on the very deeply rooting religious practices within Israel, the prominence of the Orthodox Jews, and areas that are left grey for the others in the country.
CHANGES IN THE PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: THE BASIC LAW
With regard to the positive contributions of the legislature to freedom of religion, two passages of basic laws are relevant to the discussion: Human Dignity and Liberty, and Freedom of Occupation. The uniqueness and more specifically the contribution of these particular basic laws stems from the fact that it places limits on Knesset’s legislation by a restrictive clause, which directly reduced the scope and abilities of religious fractions within the Knesset on bypassing the High Court of Justice when endorsing a law. Even rights, which are not openly mentioned within the Basic Law, are diligently protected, due to the broad and all-inclusive interpretation of “human dignity” within the Basic Laws. As freedom of religion and conscience is closely related to human dignity, Justice Aharon Barak’s commentary is as follows: “In the past, freedom of worship and religion did not enjoy a supralegal constitutional status. With the passage of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, it includes implied recognition of human dignity” (Somer, 1997).
Ultra-orthodox Jews mostly disassociated themselves from all basic law legislation and often refused to comply. There is an apparent discomfort and disturbance regarding the references on the importance of rights guaranteed by Basic Laws and their possible effects concerning the context of religion and it’s practiced. During the negotiation phase of the Basic Laws, ultra-orthodox circles constantly opted for nullifying this particular legislation. To further exemplify with the Velner case, a coalition agreement was signed between the Labor Party and the Shas movement, which aimed at the Labor faction in Knesset to work on the restoral of the new legislation to it’s older version, previous status. This particular response and coalition demand came after particular rulings made by the High Court of Justice on matters concerning religion (Attorney Ze’ev Velner v. The Alignment, 1997).
IMPACTS OF JUDICIAL RULINGS
It is important to acknowledge the Supreme Court for its contributions concerning protection, enhancement of civil rights, and religious practices over the years within the State of Israel. The judicial rulings of the Supreme Court especially within its capacity as the High Court of Justice helped in efforts, which to an extent modified the Israeli society over the years, concerning public sentiments and behavior. As a result of these changes constructed, private groups and individuals started to bring petitions before the Supreme Court, which as an end product immensely enhanced matters of religious practice and civil rights, as it was directly within the scope and intervention of High Court of Justice, the opportunity was born for a positive social reconstruction.
These efforts and dynamic processes of providing the individual with a judicial assurance on the social processes enhancing the aforementioned civil rights in matters of religious freedoms apply not only to the High Court of Justice but simultaneously to the judicial decisions finalized by the courts and the Supreme Court in a civil and criminal action.
There are cases, which could be exemplified concerning the judicial ruling by the Supreme Court that has constructed the positive enhancement of civil rights in matters of religious practice. For example, the court has recognized marriages of Israeli residents performed abroad as well as private ceremonies of individuals forbidden to marry (Tzaban v. Minister of Religious Affairs, 1986).
The issuance of kashrut certificates by the Chief Rabbinate, which can only be done in accordance and coordination with the “hardcore” directives of the halachic law, which eventually, in this case, forbade the sale of pork. Another topic considered by the Supreme Court long before the Knesset debated it to be law was the right to alternative burial. Supreme Court was also responsible for providing robust directives and explanations to the Chief Rabbinate and its associated bodies, including religious court judges and rabbinical courts, making a statement and understanding of their presence as a public body prone to interruptions by the Supreme Court.
Another relevant example is the Kaplan case, where the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the public televisions being able to operate on the Sabbath. This has been rather controversial and a factor of division between secular and orthodox Jews, while Sabbath is practiced strictly as a day of commitment to religious practices solemnly by firm believers and abstention from the use of technology.
Despite the positive contributions whereby the Supreme Court aided in enhancing the content of civil rights in matters of religious practice, there are also many cases where the court was indeed hesitant to intervene, which is closely related to political and social dynamics, just like it was in the case of Turkey. Such sentiments, which are quite strong within the society, are hard to intervene with. One example is the issue of conversion.
When the High Court of Justice brought the question of reform, the majority of the justices aimed to defer the identification of the ideological meaning, attributing a concrete substance to a delicate issue (Pissaro (Goldstein) v. Minister of the Interior, 1995). Another famous example touching upon a delicate issue mostly concerning the secular-orthodox divide, which is at utmost importance on respect for freedom of religion, is the Bar-Ilan Street case. Here the main issue was the demand to close the street to motor traffic with the aim of complying with religious necessities in the day of Sabbath, which was a clear violation for those who do not bind themselves with any religious sentiments, in other words, the “secular” Jews. Here the Supreme Court first avoided ruling on the matter, which fueled further discontent and violence amongst the public, where another option could have been a recommendation of a public committee to work on the issue initially (Horev and others v. Minister of Transport and others, 1997).
These particular examples, as aforementioned, points out to the clear dichotomy concerning the work pursued by the Supreme Court, which is quite similar to the Turkish example. Particular sentiments and topics of public consensus are indeed hard to challenge, leaving question marks on the impartiality and enforcement of Supreme Court decisions all at once.
THE FIRST SHALIT CASE
To further elaborate on the constitutional and judicial content of the State of Israel, this particular case setting a legal precedent is indeed very prominent. The case is especially important to set an understanding of the social, political dynamics, and the deeply rooted religion, Halacha law leaving grey areas for individuals who don’t feel bonded by it. Here another cause for concern, which directly ties to the debate on secular-orthodox sentiments of the state, is the definition of “Jew”, which is still, an ambiguity. Benjamin Shalit with his wife Anna Shalit demanded that their children be registered as Israeli by citizenship, Jewish by nationality, and indefinite regarding religion. Both Shalit parents were conscious atheists, where Anna Shalit was an atheist of Christian Descent and Benjamin Shalit of Jewish descent.
The Israel Ministry of Interior rejected the Shalit case as the position of the government; the judiciary collided with the religious law, which has a very strict definition regarding who is a “Jew”. According to this understanding, a person born to a non-Jewish mother is considered non-Jewish. However, the Supreme Court further held the case of Shalit, whereas an end results in the two children were registered according to the Population Registration Law (1965) as Israeli by citizenship, Jewish by nationality and religion box was left blank. Yet after less than two months of the publishing of the verdict, in order for this to not set a legal precedent, Supreme Court went ahead with particular amendments on the Law of Return (1950), which is very important and defining after identifying mass waves of migration back to the homeland following the independence of Israel. “For the purpose of this Law, “Jew” means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or who has been converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.” Also with regards the Population Registration Law, the following amendment was deemed fit:
“A person shall not be registered by ethnic affiliation registration or religion if a notification under this Law or another entry or document has not been converted to the satisfaction of the Chief Registration Officer or so long as a declaratory judgment of a competent court or tribunal has not otherwise determined” (The Law of Return, 1950).
Thus with these amendments, the third child born into the Shalit family could no longer be registered as Jewish under the law aforementioned. The question of who is a “Jew” was given a legally binding, quasi-religious definition after that. With the still persisting ambiguities and the inability of the Supreme Court on establishing a neutral definition, perhaps because of the fact that the concept is highly intertwined and concrete, is still a cause for concern with regards to many Jews. Also, it could be considered as an obstacle on freedom of religion, especially within the modern era where up to 40% of the population define themselves separate from religion and belief.
The aim of the paper was to pursue a comparative analysis with regards to two countries showing similar trends in historical context, social background, religious tendencies, and soft spots within the society. For Turkey example, since the establishment of the Republic, the highly absorbed French model of Laïcité and its collusion with religion has been a prominent issue, ongoing to this day. This particular clash lies at the heart of criticisms with regard to freedom of religion and conscience. Even though practices are arguably improved constitutionally and judicially, the concept is always highly political.
Concerning Israel’s example, similar patterns can be seen. Since the declaration of Independence of Israel in 1948, the country is highly heterogeneous on matters of religion. Especially approaching the modern era, the divide between secular and strictly orthodox Jews has strictly increased. At that respect, on a very sensitive topic with a strong political presence shaping public opinion and ways of living, freedom of religion, and conscience to this day stays controversial. Particular sensitivities are highly politicized, making it difficult for judicial organs to enforce norms that would be in more alliance with the democratic natures of both states. Even though there have been remarkable improvements and steps taken in order to enhance freedom of religion, these deeply-rooted, ongoing divides within the societies of both countries continue to hinder further development in this specific area.
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