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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: 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

New alcohol rules trigger call for sober assessment in Turkey - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review - 0 views

  • New restrictions on alcohol and drinks advertising have prompted sober damage control by the government following heated debate and confusion about how far new rules would go to curtail sale and consumption of beer, wine and spirits.
  • The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is a strong backer of the new regulations, which also restrict sports teams from using the names of alcoholic drink brands in their squad names. The public has expressed concern that this change may require the closure of the well-known Turkish basketball team Efes Pilsen, which was established by a major brewery firm and uses the name and logo of the company’s most popular brand of beer.
  • The Efes Pilsen Blues Festival, the first and only blues festival in Turkey and a long-running tradition for 20 years, will not be allowed to continue unless its name is changed so as not to contain any elements of the alcohol brand name.
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  • Guest - Kemalist Turk 2011-01-14 09:24:04   The AKP and the likes of the Green Crescent want to tell us what to drink and how to drink. To hell with them and to hell with their desire to turn our beloved Turkiye into an islamic republic. Who do they think they are? They want women to cover up; they want us to stop enjoying wine and raki; they want to ban art...when will it stop? Very soon, they will impose interest-free banking; they will force men to grow beards; they will choose only 'pious' muslims for top posts...very soon, they will impose their islam on us. Very soon, they will brand our country an 'islamic republic'. Why are we sitting down and allowing these fundamentalists to change our country and mould it into their own image? Why? No day passes by where we don't hear this ghastly government make pronouncements with islamic undertones. Everything, and I mean everything, is tainted with their islamic views. This is not my country. God help us all. TURKIYE IS SECULAR AND IT SHALL REMAIN SECULAR!!
Ed Webb

Turkey's Alevi community fears more than just IS - 0 views

  • IS isn't the only threat. For nearly 15 years, Justice and Development Party (AKP) governments have instigated anti-Alevi policies and rhetoric and fanned the flames of enmity toward Alevis. Alevis have been resisting state-sponsored efforts at Sunnification and therefore face increasing discrimination at all levels of public life.
  • "Who can guarantee us that the police officers sent to protect us would not be the ones attacking our prayer houses? I mean, what if they are members of the Gulen organization or others? Was it not an active duty police officer who assassinated the Russian ambassador?"
  • Turkey's private security industry has been a burgeoning sector in the last five years. A prominent security expert who owns one of the major companies in Istanbul spoke to Al-Monitor on the condition of anonymity and said, "The government has been providing certificates for companies who follow an ultranationalist and Islamist line. You cannot find any left-leaning or Alevi companies in this sector, because they cannot receive certificates." In addition, dozens of security firms were shut down after the July 15 coup attempt for their alleged links to the Gulen organization. Plus, it takes months to complete training and paperwork for certification.
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  • this environment of fear, coupled with police surveillance, prevents observant Alevis from visiting the places where they usually congregate
  • Alevis and many secular Turks don't believe the government is even fighting IS
Ed Webb

Turkey Feels Sway of Fethullah Gulen, a Reclusive Cleric - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • the relationship between Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Gulen has sometimes been tense, with the prime minster, a mercurial and populist leader, sensitive to any challenges to his authority. Analysts say that in recent months Mr. Erdogan and other members of his Justice and Development Party have grown increasingly wary, as high-profile arrests of critics of the Gulen movement have embarrassed the government. There is growing talk of a power struggle.
  • The movement is well known for running a network of schools lauded for their academic rigor and commitment to spreading Turkish language and culture. Gulen followers have been involved in starting one of the largest collections of charter schools in the United States. With their neatly trimmed mustaches, suits and ties, and their missionary zeal, supporters here convey the earnestness of Mormon missionaries or Muslim Peace Corps volunteers. Their eyes moisten at the mention of Mr. Gulen’s name, which is invoked with utmost reverence. Sympathizers say the notion of Mr. Gulen as a cultish puppet master is a malicious caricature. The group consists of an informal network of followers and has no formal organization or official membership, they say. Mr. Gulen communicates in essays and videotaped sermons, which are posted on the Internet and appear in other Gulen-related media outlets. His sympathizers say his goal is the creation of a “golden generation” that would embrace humanism, science and Islam and serve the Turkish state. He has publicly affirmed the importance of complying with Turkey’s secular laws, and mathematics and science competitions at Gulen schools overshadow religious expression, which takes place quietly in “relaxation rooms” that double as prayer spaces.
  • The ascent of Mr. Erdogan’s government since 2002 has radically shifted the balance of power, and analysts say the Gulenists have seized the opportunity to settle old scores and tame their former rivals, including the military.
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  • Mr. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile on a 25-acre haven in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. In 1999, he fled Turkey amid accusations of plotting to overthrow the secular government. Around that time, a taped sermon emerged in the media in which Mr. Gulen was heard advising his followers to “move within the arteries of the system, without anyone noticing your existence, until you reach all the power centers.”
  • A 2009 cable by the United States ambassador to Turkey at the time, James F. Jeffrey, made public by WikiLeaks, noted that the Gulen movement was strong within the police force and in conflict with the military. It said that the assertion that the Turkish national police is controlled by Gulenists “is impossible to confirm, but we have found no one who disputes it.”
Ed Webb

Turkey urges Egypt not to fear secularism - 0 views

  • “What is unfortunate for the Arab and Maghreb countries is that their interpretation of secularism has been based on the French model, which is a “Jacobin” model of imposing a kind of irreligiousness,”
  • Erdoğan spoke about secularism in Egypt in September last year during his landmark visit, saying Turkey prefers a model of secularism that is not identical to the “Anglo-Saxon or Western model,” without elaborating. “Individuals cannot be secular, states are. A devout Muslim can successfully govern a secular state,”
  • Gül said in the interview that in practice, the implementation of secularism in the Arab and Maghreb countries has meant fighting against Islam in the name of secularism.
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.
Ed Webb

Living on a prayer: in Istanbul's Gezi Park, protesters try to bridge the religious divide - Vocativ - 0 views

  • a group of religious anti-capitalists led by the Islamic theologian, Ihsan Eliacik, prayed at the park in front of several thousand in honor of kandil, a Muslim celebration of the Prophet Mohammad’s ascension to heaven. Though a number of religious Muslims have been part of the demonstrations, the group’s prayer appeared to mark the largest presence of religious conservatives at the protests
  • Eliacik has derided the government for installing what he calls a “looting regime,” referring to the construction boom that created a wealthy class of AKP supporters. “This shopping mall obsession, these concrete blocks — we reject this,”
  • “[This diversity] has become confusing to many,” Eliacik said. “[But] respect is in the air. We respect people who wear miniskirts — that doesn’t mean that we approve of them. But it means that we see them as equals.” Other members of the group echoed his sentiments. “The socialists were the first to give us a hand when we mentioned the kandil celebration at the park,” said Kazım İnanç, a member of the religious group. “That says so much about the spirit here.”
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,”
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