Friday, April 18, 2014

Erdogan's Theological Justification for His Dictatorial Stance

by Timon Dias

"Both materially, and in essence, sovereignty unconditionally and always belongs to Allah." — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister, Turkey.
What is surprising is that so many Western politicians, including EU-minded ones, apparently still ignore what the consequences could be of such an ideology. Do they really assume it could never happen to them?

Once again, Turkey's Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is – although ineffectively – cracking down on social media, most notably Twitter, which public outrage forced him to reinstate, and the latest municipal elections were again ridden with intimidation and fraud.

On September 12, 1980, the Turkish military cracked down on religious opposition movements that challenged the secular state, and took power over the country. What stood out during these events was that Western nations, with political structures vigorously opposed to military involvement in civil politics, were actually relieved by the military's action[1]. After all, one year earlier the secular and allied state of Iran had transformed into a theocratic and hostile nation.

Over time, however, a worrying dynamic revealed itself: The Western view of Islamic religious political movements changed, while the core ideology and intentions of these movements did not. This phenomenon coincided with the "New Left" consolidating its "March through the institutions," referring to its takeover of the academy and journalism.[2]

The West stopped seeing political Islam as an expansionist, possibly antagonistic, ideology, and started actively to aid the consolidation of Islamist power, particularly in Turkey. The EU stated that if Turkey were ever going to join it, the country would have to abolish the influence the Turkish military had over civil politics. It is reasonable that the EU did not want a member state with a military that could undo a democracy at will. But it was unreasonable of the EU to think that the only way a democracy could be undone was by a military, or, in the instance of Turkey, that of the then-secular Turkish military. The EU may also have been naïve to dismiss out of hand the claims of the Turkish military that Islamist doctrine was inherently anti-Western.

True, modern Turkish Islamists, with the current Erdogan government as a prime example, have started out by preaching their theocratic intentions in more discrete and innocent-sounding ways. Erdogan for example said: "All the schools will become [madrassa-like religious] Imam Hatip schools"[3] and "I am the Imam of Istanbul"[4], but it is not as if Erdogan is a master of disguise. The truth was out there for those not taken by wishful thinking. Erdogan, during his time as mayor of Istanbul, 1994-1998, had said that "Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off." What is somewhat less known is that Erdogan stated in 1998: "Our reference [guide] is Islam. Our only goal is an Islamic state. They can never intimidate us. If the skies and the earth open up, if storms blow on us, if the lava of volcanoes flow on us, we will never change our way. My guide is Islam. If I cannot live according to Islam, why live at all? [Turk], Kurd, Arab, Caucasian cannot be differentiated; because these peoples are united under the roof of Islam."[5]

Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2009. (Image source: World Economic Forum)

What is even less known is that during the same period he repeatedly and elaborately explained why his ideology is inherently dictatorial.

On video[6], Erdogan was saying: "You cannot be both secular and a Muslim. You will either be a Muslim, or secular. When both are together, they create reverse magnetism [they repel one another]. For them to exist together is not a possibility. Therefore, it is not possible for a person who says, 'I am a Muslim' to go on and say, 'I am secular, too.' And why is that? Because Allah, the creator of the Muslim, has absolute power and rule.... When [does the sovereignty belong to the people]? It is only when they go to the polls [every five years] that sovereignty belongs to the people. But both materially, and in essence, sovereignty unconditionally and always belongs to Allah."

Although statements such as that might sound arbitrary and irrelevant to Western readers, they are not. The overarching theological drive of many Islamists is – as for example re-emphasized by one of the founder fathers of modern political Islam, Sayyid Qutb – the implementation of the sovereignty of Allah on earth, Hakimiyyat Allah. The Sovereignty of Allah, a divinely mandated set of laws, known as Sharia, may not be undone by men: all sovereignty of the people is inferior to the sovereignty of Allah. This means that Islamist doctrine does not allow Islamist rulers to be removed from power democratically. Such a view makes such a form of government inherently autocratic.

Erdogan's views should not be surprising. He was an apprentice of Necmettin Erbakan, the founding father of what is basically the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood, known as Milli Görüs. What is surprising, however, is that so many Western politicians, including EU-minded ones, apparently still choose to ignore what the consequences could be of such an ideology. Do they really assume it could never come to them?

[1] Henk Driessen, In het huis van de islam, p.361
[2] Martin Bosma, De schijn elite van de Valsemunters, p. 83
[3] Cumhuriyet, Sep. 17, 1994
[4] Hurriyet, Jan. 8, 1995
[5] From his Dec. 6, 1997 speech, Hurriyet, Sep. 24, 1998
[6] Translation of Turkish text derived from Facebook Page of anti-Islamist Muslim commentator Tarek Fatah.

Timon Dias


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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