“Christianity is no longer a religion.”

That’s the assessment offered by the former environment and urban planning minister in Turkey speaking to a gathering sponsored by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“Christianity is no longer a religion. It’s a culture now. But that is not what a religion is like. A religion teaches; it is a form of life that gives one peace and happiness. That is what they want to turn [Islam] into as well,” said the minister Erdogan Bayraktar according to a report posted Wednesday in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News.

“There are 2.5 billion Christians in the world,” noted Bayraktar.

Former Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar attends parliament before a debate on corruption charges against four cabinet ministers of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday May 5, 2014. Erdogan has fired key ministers, including Bayraktar, after 24 people, including the sons of two former ministers, were arrested on bribery charges in December. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Former Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar attends parliament before a debate on corruption charges against four cabinet ministers of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday May 5, 2014. Erdogan has fired key ministers, including Bayraktar, after 24 people, including the sons of two former ministers, were arrested on bribery charges in December. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

“The biggest three countries in the world are not Muslim countries. China, India – only the U.S. believes in a single God. Spirituality and religious feelings are weakening,” Bayraktar said at an event hosted by a women’s committee of the AKP.

Robert Spencer of the Jihad Watch blog commented on the minister’s assessment, writing, “In other words, he is telling his audience to be on guard against those who try to water down, or should we say moderate, the teachings of Islam. Those teachings, including, presumably, the teachings of jihad warfare against unbelievers and their subjugation under the rule of Islamic law.”

“Coming from an official of the ostensibly secular regime in Turkey, this is a noteworthy statement: he is essentially saying that Turkish secularism, which restricts key aspects of Islam, must be opposed,” added Spencer, whose website tracks radical Islam.

Bayraktar was forced to step down from his post as minister and as a member of the AKP party following a corruption investigation in December.