What is Turkey’s Religion? Turkey’s Religious Landscape

Turkey’s Predominant Religion: Islam

Turkey is a secular state with a predominantly Muslim population. Islam has played a pivotal role in shaping the country’s history, culture, and societal norms. According to the latest statistics, approximately 99.8% of the Turkish population identifies as Muslim, making it one of the largest Muslim-majority countries in the world.

Sunni Islam: The Majority Denomination

The vast majority of Muslims in Turkey, around 80-85%, adhere to Sunni Islam, which is also the largest branch of Islam globally. Sunni Islam is the traditionalist branch of the religion, emphasizing the Sunnah (teachings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad) and accepting the first four caliphs as the rightful successors of the Prophet.

Alevism: A Significant Minority

Although a minority, the Alevi community constitutes a significant portion of Turkey’s population, estimated to be around 15-25%. Alevism is a distinct tradition within Islam, with roots tracing back to the 13th century. Alevis have their own unique practices, rituals, and beliefs, which blend elements of Shia Islam, Sufism, and pre-Islamic Turkish traditions.

Secularism and the Principle of Laïcité

Despite the predominance of Islam, Turkey is a secular state, adhering to the principle of laïcité (French for “secularism”). This principle, introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during the establishment of the modern Turkish Republic in 1923, mandates the separation of religion and state affairs.

The Diyanet: State Institution for Religious Affairs

To maintain a balance between secularism and religious freedom, the Turkish government established the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Presidency of Religious Affairs, or the Diyanet). This institution oversees and regulates religious matters, including the training and appointment of imams, the construction and maintenance of mosques, and the provision of religious education.

Religious Education and Freedom of Belief

While Turkey is a secular state, religious education is not entirely absent from the public education system. Students have the option to receive compulsory religious education classes, primarily focused on Sunni Islam. However, the curriculum also covers basic information about other faiths and belief systems, promoting religious diversity and tolerance.

Minority Religions in Turkey

Despite the predominance of Islam, Turkey is home to several minority religious communities, each contributing to the country’s rich cultural tapestry.

Christianity in Turkey

Christianity has a long-standing presence in Turkey, dating back to the early years of the religion. The largest Christian community in Turkey is the Eastern Orthodox Church, with adherents primarily concentrated in Istanbul and the Aegean region.

Additionally, there are small communities of Armenians, Assyrians, Catholics, and Protestants scattered throughout the country.

Judaism in Turkey

Turkey has a rich Jewish heritage, with Jewish communities dating back to the 4th century BCE. The Jewish population in Turkey today is estimated to be around 15,000-18,000, primarily residing in Istanbul, Izmir, and other major cities.

Other Minority Faiths

Turkey is also home to small communities of other faiths, including Yezidis, Baha’is, and adherents of various spiritual and philosophical beliefs. While their numbers are relatively small, these communities contribute to the diverse religious landscape of the country.

Religious Freedom and Challenges

Despite its secular constitution and legal protections for religious freedom, Turkey has faced challenges in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all religious communities.

Legal and Constitutional Protections

The Turkish Constitution guarantees freedom of belief, freedom of worship, and the private dissemination of religious ideas. However, there have been ongoing debates and concerns regarding the interpretation and implementation of these protections.

Challenges Faced by Minority Religious Communities

Minority religious communities in Turkey have faced various challenges, including restrictions on property rights, limitations on religious training and education, and occasional instances of discrimination or intolerance. Efforts are underway to address these issues and promote greater religious tolerance and inclusivity.

Turkey’s Religious Landscape: FAQs

These are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the topic of Turkey’s religion, along with concise answers:

What is the main religion in Turkey?Islam is the predominant religion in Turkey, with approximately 99.8% of the population identifying as Muslim.
Is Turkey a secular state?Yes, Turkey is a secular state, adhering to the principle of laïcité (secularism), which separates religion and state affairs.
What is the largest branch of Islam in Turkey?Sunni Islam is the largest branch of Islam in Turkey, followed by around 80-85% of the Muslim population.
What is the Diyanet?The Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Presidency of Religious Affairs) is a state institution in Turkey that oversees and regulates religious affairs and Islamic education.
Are there minority religious communities in Turkey?Yes, Turkey is home to several minority religious communities, including Christians (Eastern Orthodox, Armenians, Assyrians, Catholics, and Protestants), Jews, Yezidis, Baha’is, and others.


Turkey’s religious landscape is a complex tapestry woven with the threads of Islam, secularism, and diversity. While the country is predominantly Muslim, with a majority adhering to Sunni Islam, it also embraces secularism and religious freedom. The principle of laïcité has played a crucial role in maintaining the separation of religion and state affairs, while institutions like the Diyanet strive to balance religious affairs and education.

Moreover, Turkey is home to various minority religious communities, including Christians, Jews, and others, each contributing to the country’s rich cultural heritage. However, challenges persist in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all religious groups, and efforts are underway to promote greater tolerance and inclusivity.

As Turkey continues to navigate its secular and religious identities, it is essential to foster an environment of mutual understanding, respect, and coexistence among all faith communities, ensuring that the diverse religious tapestry remains vibrant and inclusive for generations to come.


  1. “Turkey’s Population by Religion.” World Population Review, 2023, https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/turkey-population.
  2. “Religion in Turkey.” Minority Rights Group International, 2018, https://minorityrights.org/country/turkey/.
  3. “Turkey’s Secular Democracy and the Diyanet.” Brookings, 2022,
  4. “Religious Freedom in Turkey.” U.S. Department of State, 2022, https://www.state.gov/reports/2022-report-on-international-religious-freedom/turkey/.
  5. “Turkey’s Religious Minorities.” Minority Rights Group International, 2021, https://minorityrights.org/minorities/religious-minorities-turkey/.

Leave a Comment