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Ed Webb

Turkey: Is Erdogan's "Magic Spell" Beginning to Pale? - 0 views

  • Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam
  • Another cause of upset on the part of many religious Muslims is the content of the Diyanet-prepared Friday sermons, which frequently advocates violent jihad
  • great disappointment in the Erdogan government's version of Islam, especially when accompanied by corrupt politics and a deteriorating justice system
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  • Erdogan has long promised his supporters that he would cultivate a "pious generation", and invested heavily in religious Imam Hatip schools. His younger son, Bilal, even referred to the students attending these schools as "Erdogan's generation." Yet, it turns out that the children enrolled in these institutions have been failing miserably on all standard academic tests. Research conducted in March by 50 teachers from the Imam Hatip schools revealed that students are moving away from Islam in favor of a more general deism. The report generated a heated debate. While some secular groups doubt its findings, many feel vindicated by them.
  • Turkish Islamists are no longer politically uniform -- especially women and young people, whose waning support for the AKP was apparent during the April 2017 presidential referendum. To attract both sectors, Erdogan promised to lower the age at which a person can run for parliament and to grant lavish subsidies to housewives. These vows, however, appear to be insufficient to keep the people under his "spell."
  • Children from AKP-loyal families, as well as intellectuals and activists, are apparently questioning the touted morals of their elders. In a recent op-ed, hijabi-feminist Berrin Sonmez attacked what she called the "hypocritical piety" of Erdogan and the AKP elites. Sonmez and others have been criticizing Erdogan for his one-man rule, claiming that it runs counter to Islamic values and culture
  • As of 2017, there were 90,000 mosques in Turkey, led by government-employed imams. These mosques have experienced a notable decrease in attendance, particularly among young and middle-aged men. Some of those who continue to frequent the mosques are doing so less for religious reasons than for networking and job-seeking. In addition, more and more mosques have begun requesting hefty contributions from their congregants, while imams are coaxed by the state to collect donations after each sermon. One young imam who publicly complained about this practice -- he said that mosques "no longer serve people, but rather serve as a source of income for certain people" -- was promptly removed from his position.
  • Religious orders not associated with the Diyanet are beginning to attract more practitioners. While Diyanet and government officials make headlines for their lavish spending and luxurious lifestyles, outside religious orders are presenting a more righteous way of life
  • As Diyanet mosques function as pseudo-AKP headquarters across Turkey and abroad, the alternative religious orders pose a significant threat to Erdogan's standing and power
Ed Webb

Turkey's Thirty-Year Coup | The New Yorker - 0 views

  • Within the country, the military saw Gülenists as a considerable threat. Gareth Jenkins, a fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Istanbul, said that, during the nineteen-nineties, the armed forces expelled hundreds of officers on suspicion of harboring links to Gülen. In a cable released by WikiLeaks, an American diplomat wrote that secular officers devised a test: they invited fellow-soldiers and their wives to pool parties, reasoning that women who declined to appear in public wearing swimsuits must be restricted by their religion. According to the diplomat, the Gülenist wives became aware of the tactic and came up with a countermeasure: they started wearing bikinis more revealing than their hosts’. When military inspectors began searching officers’ homes, the Gülenists stocked their refrigerators with decoy bottles of alcohol and planted empties in the trash.
  • Hanefi Avcı, the police chief for Eskişehir Province, told me that he saw Gülenist police, prosecutors, and judges fabricate evidence in political investigations. But when he alerted his superiors he was ignored. “I talked to ministers and I wrote memos and didn’t get any replies,” he said.In 2009, Avcı secretly began writing a book detailing the Gülenists’ activities in the police and judiciary. He described a movement of protean adaptability, whose methods resembled those of terrorist groups and criminal organizations; they framed opponents by planting evidence or blackmailed them with information gleaned from wiretaps. “What made the Gülen movement different is that it was inside the state,” he said, noting that infiltrators in his department had sabotaged the careers of at least ten colleagues. The book, called “Simons Living on the Golden Horn” (the title is an abstruse metaphor for not seeing what is in plain sight), became a best-seller. It seemed especially authoritative because Avcı, a conservative Islamist, had two children in Gülenist schools.
  • The judiciary, emboldened by Ergenekon and Sledgehammer, pursued the investigations ever closer to Erdoğan. In the early months of 2012, police issued a subpoena to Hakan Fidan—the chief of national intelligence and a confidant of the Prime Minister—and arrested Ilker Başbuğ, the country’s highest military officer. “They felt that they could arrest anyone,” Gareth Jenkins said. Erdoğan responded in a way that seemed calculated to hobble the Gülenists: he started closing down their schools—a crucial source of income—and working to restrain the police.
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  • On December 17, 2013, police arrested Zarrab and eighty-eight others, including forty-three government officials. Although they did not arrest any of Erdoğan’s ministers, they detained the sons of three of them, claiming that they were conduits for bribes. Erdoğan’s son Bilal also came under suspicion, after a wiretap captured what was alleged to be a conversation between him and his father. Erdoğan has insisted that the tape was doctored, but it circulated widely on social media, and Turks claimed to recognize his voice.Tayyip Erdoğan: Eighteen people’s homes are being searched right now with this big corruption operation. . . . So I’m saying, whatever you have at home, take it out. O.K.?Bilal: Dad, what could I even have at home? There’s your money in the safe.Tayyip: Yes, that’s what I’m saying.A little while later, the two apparently spoke again.Tayyip: Did you get rid of all of it, or . . . ?Bilal: No, not all of it, Dad. So, there’s something like thirty million euros left that we haven’t been able to liquidate.
  • Western officials told me that they regarded the investigation as a Gülenist attempt to topple Erdoğan’s government—but that the evidence seemed credible.
  • On Christmas Day, 2015, Turkish intelligence breached an encrypted messaging app called ByLock—an apparently homemade network with two hundred thousand users. According to Turkish officials, it was set up not long after Erdoğan began purging suspected Gülenists from the government. When the network was discovered, the server, in Lithuania, quickly closed down, and its users switched to Eagle, another encrypted messaging app. “They went underground,” a Turkish government aide told me.The intelligence officials say that they were able to decrypt the exchanges, and one told me, “Every conversation was about the Gülen community.” By checking the ByLock users’ names against government records, they found that at least forty thousand were civil employees, mostly from the judiciary and the police department. In May, two months before the coup, the government began suspending them.In July, the intelligence department notified the military that it had also identified six hundred officers of the Turkish Army, many of them highly ranked, among the ByLock users. Military officials began planning to expel them at a meeting of senior generals that was scheduled for early the next month. “We think the coup happened in July because they needed to move before they were expelled,” Ibrahim Kalın, the Erdoğan aide, told me.
  • it seems that the plotters staked their operation on capturing or killing Erdoğan and persuading General Akar to join them. “If those things had happened, the coup would have succeeded,” Kalın said. But none of the most senior generals of the Turkish armed forces could be persuaded to join, which may have left the plotters without a military leader. By 4 A.M., the coup plotters were running for their lives.
  • For Erdoğan, though, retribution has always come more easily than apologies. The state of emergency that he declared after the coup gave him dictatorial powers, which he used to carry out a far-reaching crackdown that began with Gülenists but has grown to encompass almost anyone who might pose a threat to his expanded authority.
  • Public criticism of Erdoğan has been almost entirely squelched, either by the outpouring of national support that followed the coup or by the fear of being imprisoned. Erdoğan has closed more than a hundred and thirty media outlets and detained at least forty-three journalists, and the purge is still under way.
Ed Webb

Turkey, AKP Can Correct Mistakes - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • On Sep. 19, the HEC issued a statement saying that the institution’s decision dated Aug. 15, 2013 — the one which curbed theology lessons along with other social sciences in the theology curriculum — was “suspended.” One reason, the HEC statement explained, was “the views and suggestions coming from the public.” In other words, criticisms from society had been effective in forcing a state institution to take a step back.
  • the AKP still has a reformist edge, and can see its mistakes and correct them
  • the AKP is on the one hand a democratic and liberalizing force, and on the other hand an increasingly illiberal and intolerant actor. (My explanation to this seemingly contradictory picture is that the AKP is very liberal when it comes to solving the problems created by the old regime — that of the Kemalists — but it can be very illiberal regarding the problems it creates with its own hands.)
Ed Webb

What Does Morsi's Ouster Mean for Turkey? - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • Why is the Turkish government on such high alert? How can the coup in Cairo affect Turkey? Is Turkey fearing the collapse of the “model” that was once seen as a source of inspiration for the region?
  • “The impression I get from the second Tahrir uprising by Arab nationalists and liberals — which toppled the Brotherhood — and the West’s non-committal attitude, is that the global establishment has given up on the moderate Islam project. This will certainly reflect on Turkey. Turkey may easily experience a gradual decrease in the easy credits it was acquiring by saying, ‘I represent moderate Islam. I will rehabilitate the region.’ This loss of stature will not only be seen in economic but also in political, diplomatic and military arenas.
  • “Egypt can’t affect Turkey directly in the short run. But should the AKP exhibit displeasure and fully identify with the Brotherhood, we will be affected. I am afraid such a perception already exists. The AKP has ideological affinity and institutional links with the Brotherhood. But Turkey is not Egypt. They have diverse political processes. If the AKP exaggerates its reactions, all the forces that intend to mobilize against the AKP might take action. “Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had an ambition to shape an Egypt-Turkey axis. This is now totally off the agenda. This is a serious weakness for Turkey and its political vision for the region. Egypt was the center of gravity for a Sunni bloc based on the Brotherhood. There is now a serious gap.
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  • “Obviously the moderate Islam project has been badly bruised. That is the prevailing perception. The moderate Islam project was an outcome of the Arab Spring. It was a general picture nourished by Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey. Now the pixels of that photo are blurred. It is sad, but it is the reality.
  • You are a political party. You are governing a country. You are not a civil society outfit. If you are going to deal with everything from a morality angle, then go and set up an NGO. Those ruling countries have heavy responsibilities. They have to think of the interests of millions of people. They have to be cool-headed and build their policies on realism and balances of power.
Ed Webb

Turkey Seeks a Spiritual Leader's Secret Grave - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • “The military rulers were afraid that Nursi would become a symbol of dissent, his grave a shrine to anti-Kemalism,”
  • Through his writings, collected in the “Risale-i Nur,” or “Epistles of Light,” and clandestinely photocopied and distributed by his students, Mr. Nursi’s ideas continued to resonate in Turkey, inspiring a uniquely Turkish Islamic identity and a powerful faith-based movement that shapes the country’s society and politics to this day.
  • a parliamentary commission investigating the coups has called for Mr. Nursi’s secret grave to be revealed at last
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  • Ahmet Er and Numan Esin, who sat on the 38-member junta and are now aged 85 and 83, told the commission that even they had not been privy to that information
  • “About half the Islamic movement in Turkey, meaning the pious, conservative segment of society, are literally direct followers of Nursi, while the other half also respects him,”
  • The hearings have triggered a popular quest for Mr. Nursi’s grave, with new witnesses coming forward in the media and contributing pieces to the puzzle.
  • Only Alparslan Turkes, a former junta member who died in 1997, had known
  • Even without the body, many thousands of pilgrims flock to Mr. Nursi’s empty tomb in Urfa, to the house he inhabited in Isparta, and even to the Urfa hotel room he died in, piously preserved in its original state by the hotel owner right down to the light bulb.
  • Modernity, science and rationalism play key roles in his teachings, as does the individual, distinguishing the Nurcu movement from other currents of Islam.
  • The Nurcu have traditionally steered clear of strident political Islam, rejecting Turkey’s late Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan as too inflammatory, embracing a democratic and pluralistic political system, and hewing to the mainstream conservative parties
  • A year ago, the environment minister, Erdogan Bayraktar, became the first cabinet member to pray at the empty tomb
  • “Said Nursi has long been rehabilitated by the people, but his rehabilitation by the state nevertheless gladdens us, after all those years in which it was considered a crime to read his books,”
Ed Webb

Fiery Erdogan Slams Assad, Iran - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East - 0 views

  • He questioned whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was really a Muslim, which will likely provoke Alawites inside Turkey and abroad
  • Erdogan denied interfering in Syria’s internal affairs. He launched an attack on Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, describing him as part of an anti-Turkey campaign. He said that “just like there is the Baath Party in Syria, there is the Republican People's Party in Turkey.”
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    Dangerous rhetoric, aligning not only the Kurds but the Alevis with identified enemies of Turkey. Electoral politics and foreign policy entwined with potentially awful results. Erdogan needs to step back from this kind of argument.
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