It is an Islamic requirement for interest rates to be dialled down or entirely eliminated and Muslims must wage war against usury, the imam of the Hagia Sopia mosque said on Monday.
Mehmet Boynukalın’s remarks arrive after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired Naci Ağbal, chief of the Turkish central bank, last Friday for hiking interest rates to combat inflation. The Turkish lira plummeted on Monday against the U.S. dollar after Ağbal’s firing, replacing him with the third central bank head in less than two years.
“In strong economies, interest (hovers) around zero to one percent,’’ the professor of Islamic Law at Marmara University said on Twitter. “As such, struggling against userers is also a command.’’
Ağbal had shored up the lira currency and investor confidence for his hawkishness on interest rates since stepping in as central bank chief in November.
The Turkish president maintains an unorthodox view of interest. He believes that high rates cause inflation, instead of the widely accepted view that holds the opposite to be true.
Boynukalın went on to share a verse from the Qur’an, speaking on the test facing people over their possessions and their lives, calling for patience in the face of calamity.
The group deputy chair of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Bülent Turan on Monday criticised the imam over his remarks.
The AKP official on Twitter said it was “saddening” that Boynukalın was involved in polemics that cast a shadow over his role at the newly converted mosque and called on the imam to refrain from engaging in political debates.
The 50-year-old professor has made headlines since being appointed head imam of Hagia Sophia in July, shortly after the sixth century UNESCO-listed site, which was initially an Orthodox Christian cathedral, was converted into a mosque.
Boynukalın’s previous remarks on femicides and secularism have sparked backlash from critics and on social media.