Ahmet Davutoglu.jpg

Turkey is not planning to introduce an Islamic constitution, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday, as a debate about the nature of the country's constitution continues to simmer.

His comments, carried by state news agency Anadolu, follow a call for an Islamic constitution made by Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman on Tuesday. Kahraman said that Turkey should be defined as an Islamic nation and have a new religious-based constitution that does not contain the principle of secularism.

Turkey is currently debating changes to its constitution meant to empower the office of the president, currently held by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan has distanced himself from Kahraman's remarks, which he described as the legislator's "personal opinion."

However, the debate has once again put the spotlight on the fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power as a mildly Islamist party, a fact that continues to disturb some of the country's top defenders of secularism.

Speaking before parliament, Davutoglu said secularism would be "part of the new constitution, which will secure citizens' freedom of religion and faith."

The constitution will also guarantee that "the state maintains the same distance to all religious groups," the prime minister said.

The speaker's remarks were met with angry demonstrations in front of parliament in Ankara, with police using tear gas against protesters, according to DHA news agency.

Demonstrations against an Islamic constitution were also seen in Istanbul, as well as the western city of Izmir, where police also used tear gas according to images posted on social networks.

Some 11 protesters were arrested during the demonstrations, Cumhuriyet daily reported.

Omer Celik, AKP spokesman, said his party believed in the principal of secularism being maintained in the new constitution.

However he said the party supported a "libertarian secularist" approach over a "militant" separation of state and religion.

Secularism has been a defining characteristic of modern Turkey, founded in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The concept is mentioned repeatedly in the constitution, which was created in 1980 following a military coup.

Latest news

Alphabet's self-driving car company sues Uber over alleged theft

Alphabet's self-driving car company Waymo said Thursday it was suing Uber and its subsidiary Otto for allegedly stealing its technology and infringing its patents.

US, Mexico take "important steps" even as Trump voices indifference

Top US and Mexican diplomatic and security officials met on Thursday in Mexico City, as President Donald Trump in Washington expressed ambivalence about relations with the United States' southern neighbour.

US Supreme Court's Ginsberg emphasizes value of free press

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed optimism about the political future of the United States despite the polarized and combative political atmosphere that has marked the fledgling presidency of Donald Trump.

Top Trump aide Bannon points to promises kept, media fight

Top White House strategist Steve Bannon said Thursday US President Donald Trump is keeping the promises he made during his campaign on issues from immigration to job creation.

Le Pen promises independent foreign policy, autonomous defence

Marine Le Pen promised Thursday that if elected president of France she would ensure it had a truly independent foreign policy as well as an autonomous capacity for self-defence.

Slovenia for ending lawsuits against Ljubljanska Banka

Croatia is infringing the memorandum of understanding signed with Slovenia in 2013 which they interpret differently, the Slovenian Embassy said on Thursday after a hearing at a Zagreb court in a suit which Croatia's PBZ bank filed against Slovenia's Ljubljanska Banka (LB) and Nova Ljubljanska Bank (NLB) over transferred foreign currency savings.

Marin Pucar appointed as new CEO in Podravka food concern

Marin Pucar is the new Management Board chairman of the Podravka food concern and will take the helm of the company after Zvonimir Mrsic's term expires at midnight on Thursday.

Croatian MEP says Moscow wants to influence in western Balkans

Croatian MEP Ivan Jakovcic said in an interview with the Montenegrin Pobjeda daily on Thursday that Moscow is trying to exploit the political forces in Montenegro and that Russia's meddling in Montenegro's internal affairs was "unacceptable behaviour."

New York Times launches brand campaign for 'The Truth' with Oscars ad

The New York Times is using Sunday's Academy Awards show to launch an advertising drive with an ad spot that capitalizes on President Donald Trump's confrontational relationship with the paper and other mainstream media.

Gambia charges former spy chief with murder of opposition leader

The former head of the Gambian national intelligence agency has been charged with the murder of an opposition youth leader who died in detention last year.

Dutch populist Wilders won't publicly campaign after security fiasco

The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) won't make public appearances in support of its election campaign after a security official assigned to protect party founder Geert Wilders was detained by police.

Peace Implementation Council Steering Board calls for defusing tensions in Bosnia

The Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) met on Thursday, expressing the international community's concern about the situation in the country and calling on local politicians to act rationally to prevent an escalation of the crisis after a motion was submitted to review an International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling in BiH's case against Serbia for genocide.