Turkish PM: new charter to stay secular; not 'authoritarian'

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has reaffirmed that Turkey's new constitution will remain secular, days after the parliament speaker sparked controversy by saying that the Muslim-majority country should have a basic charter based on religion.

Davutoglu said Wednesday that the new constitution — which his ruling Islamic-rooted party is drafting — would feature a freedom-oriented principle of secularism — not an "authoritarian understanding of secularism."

He was referring to a strict interpretation of Turkey's secular laws under previous governments, that for example barred the wearing of Islamic-style head scarves for women in schools, parliament and government offices.

The parliament speaker, Ismail Kahraman, advocated a religious constitution on Monday but backtracked a day later following a barrage of criticism and denial of such plans by the ruling party.