ERDOĞAN’S TURKEY TO A POST-KEMALIST ERA

The added value on the level of Islamic principles and alliances reliability

by Glauco D’Agostino

Turkey resumes its role, what’s due on the historical and political level, and that was denied a century ago.

Let’s start with three current events to figure out what that means and which elements are to be considered:

  • Last June 9th, then Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Iranian President Ḥasan Ruhani met in Ankara (see photo on the left) and pledged to jointly fight extremism and terrorism, by defining the terms of a Turkish-Iranian regional cooperation, in order to stop Middle Eastern atrocities;
  • The following July 22nd in Istanbul, Meḥmet Görmez, President of Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey and Northern Cyprus) since 2010, at the end of an international conference of Shiite and Sunni scholars, said the Caliphate establishment by the Islamic State militants lacks legitimacy: Such declarations have no legitimacy whatsoever, stated Görmez with respect to the Shaykh Abū Bakr al-Ḥusaynī al-Qurayshī al-Baghdādī’s announcement, dated 6 Ramaḍān 1435 of the Hegira (July 4th, 2014). And he added: Since the Caliphate was abolished … there have been movements that think they can pull together the Muslim world by re-establishing a Caliphate, but they have nothing to do with reality, whether from a political or legal perspective. These Görmez’s words are not an opinion like many others: He is the successor of the Shaykh al-Islām position, that is of the muftī and Sultan’s spiritual, legal and religious adviser that, since its institutionalization in 1480 by Meḥmet II until the Caliphate abolition in 1924, even has been the task of confirming the Sultan-Caliph in his office;
  • August 10th, outgoing Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the candidate of Justice and Development ruling Islamic party, has won the first direct presidential election in Turkey, beating the joint candidate of the Kemalist center-leftist Republican People’s Party (CHP), and the far-rightist conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

These above mentioned occasions act as trailers to as many arguments that could feature Ankara policies in the next future, in the light of the depth of its history, never to be underestimated:

  • The new foreign policy of President Erdogan’s Turkey;
  • The cultural boost to a sort of pan-Islamic claim;
  • The re-establishment of a post-Kemalist Turkey, based on the religious values ​​of its population, artificially sacrificed for 100 years.

The first observation is Turkey enjoys (or suffers, depending on your point of view) a unique position in the Islamic world, as belonging to a military alliance such as NATO, binding its foreign policy stance and strategies: That enabled it, well before its 1951 NATO official accession, to avoid on the one hand the squeeze at that time Soviet communism posed through the turmoil of the pro-communist political forces; on the other hand, the instability caused by extremist attack against the insane policy of forced secularization imposed after the Caliphate dissolution. Therefore, here’s a Turkey with a population whose religious features are definitely homogeneous, and nonetheless today a bridge between two neighboring civilizations, the European and Arab ones, a cultural communication hub between East and West, as well, just by virtue of its central position, but also and especially because of its peculiarity as a Middle Eastern Muslim non-Arab country opened listening external realities.

Hence, the added value of the new Turkey, after being freed from the ideological shackles that have held it subdued in a century-old neo-colonial mechanism coils, might be just what follows: to be recognized by the West for its reliability in terms of alliances, but also and above all by the Arab and Islamic world for its newfound credibility in terms of Islamic values. In other words, what the old Turkey could not be deemed by the Middle East, as it was dominated by the Kemalist willingness of uncritically emulating “Western” customs and institutions, now the new Turkey can afford to dream, turning his gaze to the south and to the east, and offering itself as a regional power along with Iran: that way the Presidents Gül and Ruhani’s meeting in Ankara may probably be interpreted, certainly confirmed in his desires by former Prime Minister and neo-President Erdoğan.

The neo-Ottomanism danger, sure: At least part of the international media so looks at the ambitions of Turkey, by interpreting them as expansionist tendencies. Of course, it’s pure propaganda! And for two main reasons:

1) Just President Görmez, not by chance mentioned earlier, has specified it is inappropriate Muslims could be aggregated under a Caliph’s rule, by imagining, however, political blocs such as the EU: A statement that does not avoid controversies from the most convinced and traditional Islamists, but whose prudential and somehow renouncing nature leaves no room for political speculation by those who still accuse Ankara of revanchism;

2) The attempt to push through an idea that just recalling the Ottoman Caliphate is synonymous with obscurantism, is at least misplaced by “janissaries” of radical-illuministic worship, given the disastrous outcomes (still 100 years later) people of the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing on their own skin, as a result of the unbalanced policies adopted by Western countries after the Sultanate break-up, the practices for dividing its remains, and the nationalistic ravings instigated to local populations.

Not a mystery Turkish Foreign Minister Aḥmet Davutoğlu, in office since 2009, has criticized the effects of 1916 Sykes-Picot secret agreement, the Pact sharing the Middle East among colonial powers. That deal, following a century-long twisting path, stands there perpetuating an endless colonial domination some analysts or media outlet would like to consider “dangerous” to query. Someone missed that those balances no longer guarantee a so deeply searched stability: Because very few of those state entities born from the Great War maintain or control their borders, with Iraq and Syria eroded by the Islamic State, and especially with the havoc Israel made in the occupied territories (first Jordanian, then Palestinian), including the Syrian Golan Heights; not to mention the sad chapter of some North African former Ottoman countries, nowadays at the mercy of guerrillas and “military-democratic” dictators.

Therefore, if strong and stabilized countries, such as Turkey and Iran, are looking for their own guiding and representing space of Middle-Eastern Islamic world, there is no justification for considering them as neo-imperial, after the disguised Western imperialism left and persist to leave everyone missing the tolerant, pluri-secular, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious culture provided by the Caliphate. Moreover, following former President Halil Turgut Özal (a nationalist, certainly not an Islamist leader), it’s absolutely legitimate Turkey offers itself as a peaceful cultural and political reference point for Turkic areas of the Balkans, Caucasus and Central Asia, as well, where even exist other influences that might alter their cultural features. Otherwise, what sense would have political openings to imported templates of popular participation? I don’t think these processes can be simply dictated one-way, in which case they are likely to fail.

The Turkish renewal is not a slogan. Today Turkey has paved the way to look like a normal country, no longer weighed down by the Kemalist ideological and anti-Islamic burden. Its author is the Erdoğan’s AKP which, giving body to Islamic values, allows religion freedom as opposed to the liberation policy from all religions, proposed for decades by the West-facing secularism. Evidence of this is the greater attention paid over recent years to the Christians’ rights (and those of the Greek Orthodox, in particular), mostly opposed, instead, by the rightist and leftist secular parties, fearing openness towards other religions as forerunner of further requests from Muslims. And even Kurds, as an ethnic minority, since 2009 have enjoyed greater autonomy and social acceptance than the times (even recent ones) to which governments have acted as the guardians of ethnic Turkish prevalence introduced by Atatürk. And to think, the “Father of the Turks” himself, while abolishing Sharī’a Law in 1927 with all its safeguards provided for minorities, was inspired by the 1907 Swiss Civil Code!

It’s also evident that Turkish renewal does not mean giving up modernity and the synergies created in all fields with the European and Western world, just from the earlier mentioned cultural bridge perspective. But, for example, it’s in Turkey’s interest to reject the European Union’s political blackmail against it, since, once it has made the call to be part of it, it proves to be hesitant in its full acceptance, under the pretext Ankara fails to demonstrate achieving the necessary requirements. Perhaps, Turkish people are not so fascinated by this marriage of convenience, and, after all, the first international community to which they belong is the Islamic Umma. It’s not said modernity cannot be pursued and accepted, according to the Abū ‘l-Aʿlā Mawdūdī insights, by following the paths of Islam, by reinterpreting and reorienting conventional sources and doctrinal confessions.

Of course, the Islamic movement, despite a high prevalence of Sunni population, is not a single body in Turkey, and it’s unlikely all of its components follow a single path, since they are articulated in Sunni, Shiite and heterodox faiths, ṭuruq (Sufi brotherhoods), movements and parties. Hereinafter some of the religious components active in the country are mentioned (some of them are influential, others much less):

Among the Shiite groups:

  • the Nusayris, born in the first half of X century with esoteric and initiatory features in closed groups, have now been accepted in the Twelver’s family, and the Turkish ones share the same faith with Syrian Alawites;
  • the Alevis, syncretistic worship of ‘Alī ibn Abū Ṭālib, were born in Persia in the X century, and are historically mostly present in Eastern Turkey among Turkish, Arabic and Kurdish ethnic groups with doctrinal characteristics similar to Bektaşi Sufi Order’s.

Among the Sunni ṭuruq:

  • the Rifa’iyya (of Howling Dervishes), dating back to the XII century and based on mystical ecstasy by bodily mortifications, is also spread all over the Arab Middle East, the Balkans and India;
  • the Qādiriyya, founded in the same century, conservative and hierarchical, and even the most elitist among the brotherhoods, is also widespread in South-Central Asia, Turkestan, the Balkans, Chechnya and Africa;
  • the Mevleviyyè (of Whirling Dervishes) was founded in the XIII century in the holy city of Konya by Mawlānā Jalaladdun Rûmî, an Ibn ‘Arabi Ṣūfī Saint’s disciple;
  • the Khalwatiyya (also belonging to the Dervishes’ Order), born in the XIV century in Turkey, has had among its disciples several Ottoman Sultans, including Bāyazīd II the Saint and his grandson Suleiman the Magnificent;
  • the Naqshbandiyya, founded in 1380, is nowadays mainly spread in Syria, Afghanistan, Chechnya and the Balkans;
  • the Süleymancılar was founded in the XX century as an expression of a puritan and traditionalist Islam.

Among the Shiite ṭuruq:

  • the Bektaşi, who arose in the XIII century, during the following century formed the Janissaries’ official Order (the related image below is from comgun.ru) within the imperial structures, and now are also popular in the Balkans;
  • the Qizilbāš (the Red Heads) were born at the end of the XIII century in Anatolia and Kurdistan, and, according to some scholars, might be heirs to the Ismaili Nizari’s sect.

Эпоха битв в рисунках. Часть 2. (25 фото)

It’s also manifold the framework of the minor political parties and movements of Islamic inspiration, among which we can mention:

  • the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) of former Prime Minister (now deceased) Necmettin Erbakan, founded in 2001, following the Virtue Party forced dissolution, and which bases its policy on the spiritual power of Islam and on criticism against emulation of the secularists values ​​introduced in Turkey from the West;
  • the  Independent Turkey Party (Bağımsız Türkiye Partisi, BTP) of Prof. Haydar Baş, established in 2001 with nationalist outlines and fighting inter alia for the rights of Alevis and Shiites;
  • the set of Kurdish Islamist parties and movements, about which we have already spoken in another article (this is its link http://www.islamicworld.it/wp/kurdish-puzzle-nationalism-islamism/);
  • The Turkish Islamic Jihād, with a fundamentalist orientation;
  • Ḥizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation), part of the international pan-Islamist movement, outlawed, but active in this country.

Definitely, the new Islamic perspective of Turkey has come 13 years ago with the establishment of Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP). But it would be restrictive not to recognize the inheritance left by the struggle against Kemalism of men and Islamist political formations, from which it historically and politically derives. In particular, since 1970 we have to mention:

  • the National Order Party (Millî Nizam Partisi, MNP) of Necmettin Erbakan, founded in 1970 and dissolved a year and a half later for violating the Constitution in its secularist fundamentals;
  • the National Salvation Party (Millî Selâmet Partisi, MSP), heir to the previous, established in 1972 with a clear Islamist political program, as an advocate of traditional values, and opposed to Communism, Freemasonry, and Zionism. In 1974, by entering the social-democratic-inspired Republican People’s Party-led government of Mustafa Bülent Ecevit, it broke the regime ostracism against the Islamist movement, by legitimizing the acceptance of one of its party components in the government halls. The party was disbanded in 1980 by the Kenan Evren’s military coup, though the “Turkish-Islamic Synthesis”, conceived by nationalists in the 70’s, had become the military political line in favor of an Islam as a unifying and moralizing force of the Nation as a whole;
  • the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi, RP), born in 1983 out of MSP ashes, once more with Erbakan among its founders and the current President Erdoğan among the leading figures. Between 1996 and 1997, it placed Erbakan as Turkish Prime Minister, before a powerful anti-Islamist campaign forced him to resign. In 1998 it has been dissolved by the Constitutional Court with the usual undemocratic reasons;
  • the Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi, FP), founded in 1998 by several members coming from Refah Party (including President Abdullah Gül), and dissolved the same way in 2001. One of its MP, Merve Safa Kavakçı, is known for having defiantly sought to wear an Islamic headscarf at the Grand National Assembly inauguration ceremony, just to highlight the lack of free choice imposed by the secular regime.

Then, the 2002 turning point, when Justice and Development Party, under the Erdoğan’s leadership, and following little more than a year after its foundation, won two thirds of the seats in the parliamentary elections, and opened the government successful season, which, through three subsequent electoral confirmations more and more on the rise, still continues to the present day with the conquest of the Presidency of the Republic.

Certainly, who (such as the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings, through Ali Çarkoğlu’s pen) still last January wrote the following words, has not seen far away: …nearly eleven years after it came to power, many have begun to argue, likely prematurely, that the AKP may soon see its supremacy come to an end.

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