ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey’s senior cleric used a speech in Istanbul on Saturday to criticize the practice of different countries celebrating Islamic festivals at varying times.
Mehmet Gormez, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, was speaking at a conference about unifying the Islamic religious – or Hijri – calendar.
He criticized existing differences in Islamic countries where festivals – to mark the end of Ramadan, for example – are celebrated on different days.
Representatives from about 50 countries including Turkey, Malaysia, the Gulf states, Egypt and the United States attended.
The congress brought together astronomers and officials from Islamic countries to try and create a unified calendar for Muslim worship.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus warned of the potential for division if the issue is not resolved: "Today, the Middle East's most populous four peoples – Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Persians – are on the verge of a serious divergence.”
Kurtulmus said that Muslims should do their part to eliminate this disagreement in the Islamic world.
Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also congratulated the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs for organizing the congress: "I believe that the road map which will be revealed by esteemed scientists and astronomers will help to find permanent solutions and to serve in unity the Hijri calendar," he said in a statement.
Ramadan – the sunrise-to-sunset holy month of fasting in Islam – falls on June 6 in Turkey this year.