Ankara: Turkey's top religious body on Friday urged Muslims unable to remove their tattoos to beg God for forgiveness, the latest intervention in a growing controversy over body art in the country.
The religious authorities in officially secular Turkey frown on tattoos, even though they are highly fashionable, especially among the young, urban population.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who critics accuse of seeking to impose a creeping Islamisation on the country, has repeatedly made clear his belief that tattoos are harmful and immoral.
"A person with a tattoo should remove it, if possible. He/she should repent to God if the tattoo cannot be removed," Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet in Turkish, said in a fatwa (a religious ruling).
It reaffirmed that all forms of body art are banned by the Prophet Mohammed and suggested that they should, if possible, be removed either by laser or by surgery.
"Our prophet has said 'Allah curses the people who change their shape created by God', be it a woman with tattoos or someone who removes hair from their face or eyebrows," it added.
Erdogan, a practising Muslim, has already made clear his distaste for tattoos, telling a promising young footballer in July last year to get rid of the tattoos on his arm.
In September, the government banned school pupils from having tattoos or body piercings as well as wearing make-up, dyeing of hair and moustaches and beards for boys....