Turkey university entrance exams to test religion

Questions about religion will be introduced in two Turkish university entrance exams next year, a first in the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular country, an official said Tuesday.

Students will be asked to answer five questions on religion in the Transition to Higher Education Examination (YGS) on March 24, and eight questions in the social sciences branch of the Undergraduate Placement Examination known as LYS-4 on June 15, the official told AFP.

Both are standardized tests required to be admitted to higher education in Turkey.

"It is the first time that students will answer questions on religion in a Turkish university exam," said the official on condition of anonymity.

Students in Turkish state schools are required to take religious courses.

The new exam questions however are controversial in a country which has non-Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews, although 99 percent of the population is said to be Muslim.

In February, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government wanted to "raise a religious youth," a comment that has touched a nerve, fuelling debates on an hidden government agenda to Islamize secular Turkey.

Erdogan is himself a graduate of a clerical school and the leader of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Secular quarters argue Erdogan’s conservative government is step by step imposing religion in every aspect of life, saying many restaurants already refuse to serve alcohol during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

They also criticize recent changes to legislation under which religious school graduates will now be able to access any university branch they like, while in the past they had only access to theology schools.

It is the first time that students will answer questions on religion in a Turkish university exam.