File - Students of Tevfik Ileri Imam Hatip School walk along a corridor as they leave their classroom for a break in Ankara November 18, 2014. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)
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Turkey has seen a sharp rise in religious schooling under reforms that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan casts as a defense against moral decay, but which opponents see as an unwanted drive to shape a more Islamic nation.Almost a million students are enrolled in "imam hatip" (religious education) schools this year, up from just 65,000 in 2002, when Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party first came to power, he told the opening of one of the schools in Ankara last month."When there is no such thing as religious culture and moral education, serious social problems such as drug addiction and racism fill the gap," Erdogan told a symposium on drug policy and public health earlier this year.But in the drive to create more imam hatip places, parts of schools have been requisitioned, prompting protests from parents who want secular education for their children.A large parliamentary majority also enabled the AK Party to push through hasty changes in 2012, including allowing religious education, previously restricted to high-school students.
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