‘First, account for the shirt you are wearing’

Ekrem Dumanli
Ekrem Dumanli

Date posted: March 3, 2014


This is a story about the righteous Caliph Omar. He is addressing the people in a sermon: “Hear me out and obey me.” An ordinary man in the crowd responds to the head of state: “We will neither hear you out nor obey you.” Silence in the mosque: They probably expect the caliph to strongly reprimand the critic. But, instead of scolding, Omar asks why.

The critic says: “Omar, cloth was given to everybody as a spoil of war. But it wasn’t enough for anyone to make a shirt. Now I see that you were able to make a shirt from it. And you expect obedience.”

The caliph shows no sign of anger. And maybe he is pleased at hearing these remarks, because at the beginning of his rule, he asked the people what they would do if he were wrong in his decisions or actions. He thanked Allah when the ordinary people responded to this question by saying that they would correct him with their swords. That meant that the people would hold him accountable. He did not think that because he was caliph he was unquestionable and untouchable.

Instead of hushing up the allegation, he makes sure the matter is clearly explained. He told his son, Abdullah, to clarify the matter. Abdullah explains: “True, it was impossible to make a shirt with that piece of cloth. But I gave my piece to my father to make a whole shirt for him.” Peace reigns in the mosque again. And the people said: “Now speak; we both hear and obey you.”

In those days, people tried to hold their rulers accountable, and the rulers did not avoid the people’s questions, because the ethics of Muhammad and the Quran taught them not to. Prophet Muhammad was unable to sleep one night; when his wife asked him why, he said: “Last night, I saw a date on the floor. I took it and ate it. And then I wondered if it was from the treasury of the state.”

These were the prophet’s ethics. Usayd bin Hudayr was telling jokes and making people laugh. While he was making a joke, Prophet Muhammad poked him gently and told him not to do so. Usayd said the poke had hurt him and asked for redress. Prophet Muhammad bent on his knees, took his shirt off and said: “Approach and poke me as a settlement, because it will be harder for me to do this in the afterlife.”

This is reality, not utopia. Nobody was unquestionable. Nobody was regarded as privileged, particularly if the dispute concerned the rights of the people. Prophet Muhammad, when he was asked to adopt a lenient approach to a suspect who was a leading person in the community, recalled the destruction of previous nations. He said that in these cities, when leading people committed a crime, they were forgiven, whereas ordinary criminals were severely punished. And to make his point more clearly, he said, “I would have punished the criminal even if it were my daughter, Fatima.”

Once, we attended meetings where such examples were cited to elaborate on Islamic social justice. These cases and examples used to inspire us to embrace such an approach in our daily and communal lives. And now? Some people are accused of corruption; but some conservative figures make statements in which they strongly deny the allegations or justify the corruption. Some are accused of bribery; but fatwas are issued to offer a legitimate ground for it. What would Prophet Muhammad, who stresses that both the bribe-taker and the bribe-giver will face divine damnation, say if he heard these statements and actions justifying corruption and bribery?

I cannot help asking about the reason for such a great love for the world and material pleasures. Some of the people who once promoted patience and fighting for victory in the name of Islam in the streets are now giving their souls up into the arms of the state because of the appeal of money, position and power. There is now no trace of excitement or ambition to raise Islamic youth, no trace left of the critics who attempted to hold Omar accountable for his shirt.

Political Islam was influential and dynamic because of the advantages associated with being outside of the system. Now it appears that it has been tamed enough to fall into error and integrate with the system. For what purpose? Aside from the legal and political dimensions of recent discussions, religious and conservative people should think about the following vital issue: It is extremely unfortunate that religious discourse is used to distract attention from cardinal sins like corruption, bribery and financial irregularities.

O my God, this is a great test we are being subjected to. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a major distortion of the religious precepts. Prophet Muhammad, who says that both what is allowed and what is not are obvious, further adds: “There are suspicious acts in between. You should avoid them.” Is this not obvious? It is not all about winning elections. What will happen to our sense of accountability? What about our vows to lead a decent life?

Dear Prime Minister, if you love Allah!

Unfortunately, the prime minister’s harsh rhetoric and discourse have hurt him and the entire country. He loses himself when he takes the stage, where he levies strong insults against different segments of society. But it also seems that he sometimes remembers the responsibility his position as prime minister implies; so he makes a few statements in which he says he loves all the 77 million people in Turkey. I wish this were the case. Unfortunately, there is no trace of love or respect in his strong remarks and statements.

Please take a minute and answer this: Is there anyone or any group left who has not been insulted or reprimanded by the prime minister? With the exception of his political allies and supporters, everybody has been subjected to this process of insults, including right and left-wingers, atheists, businesspeople, media, columnists, writers and journalists. It seems he has only one criterion: that people should unquestionably and unconditionally obey him. But this is not proper in religion or politics. For this reason, he relentlessly insults everybody.

For instance, he first insulted Devlet Bahçeli by recalling that he had no sons or daughters. This is shameful. Is this a remark that befits the Tayyip Erdoğan we once supported? He even went further and made similar remarks this time for Fethullah Gülen. He calls out in a pejorative manner, “Ey Hoca” (Yo, Hoja), in his political rallies. Is this how a prime minister is supposed to speak?

Many prominent figures including Bediüzzaman never married in order to dedicate themselves to their cause. This is a sacrifice that those valuable figures including Gülen have made in their lives. The people are aware of this and respect this. Those who make fortunes, use politics as a shield for their unethical acts and commit bribery would not understand Gülen. And is there any logic in hurting or insulting those who have not married or borne children? This is shameful! If he took a look around, the prime minister would realize what a grave mistake he has made. Even those who would call him “O daddy” would tell him what a grave and cruel insult it was.

The prime ministers says, “You, Hocaefendi, you should return to Turkey if you love your country.” Interestingly, he makes this demand after accusing Hocaefendi of being a “gang leader” and “chieftain.” He goes further when he complained to another country’s president about Hocaefendi. History will hold Erdoğan accountable for this…

And I would like to say: “You, prime minister, you should first explain the scandalous voice recordings that purportedly show you and your son, Bilal Erdoğan, discussing how to ‘get rid of’ large sums of money stashed in your homes and those of your relatives and the millions of dollars that you ‘get rid of,’ for the love of God. Attempting to fend off accusations using the word ‘editing’ is unnecessary. If you love God, you should disown these recordings, saying: ‘I have never had such a conversation: The people speaking in these recordings are not me and my son.’ You have already confessed that while on an official trip to Morocco you asked a manager at Habertürk TV to remove a news ticker showing comments by Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] leader Devlet Bahçeli. If you love God, speak the truth, do not insult the people and do not hurt the public conscience!”
The new Feb. 28 process

Unfortunately, a dark shadow has fallen on justice. The prosecutors investigating corruption have been removed from office. And some of the prosecutors who were appointed to their posts have also been removed from office. The law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSKY), which opponents argue gives the government too much power over the judiciary, was enacted and the justice minister’s control over the HSYK has been boosted with this law. The government tried to intimidate the people by removing nearly 7,000 police officers from their jobs and reappointing them to other cities. Moreover, a document recently revealed to the media has confirmed the claim that three prosecutors from the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office ordered the İstanbul Police Department on Jan. 8 to destroy wiretapped recordings that had been carried out by the police as part of the second phase of the ongoing corruption and bribery investigation. Such recklessness!

All the suspects of the biggest corruption investigation of the history of the republic have been released. Some of those who were caught red-handed are putting on a show of power in the election rallies. So now, who can dare to tackle the corruption claims? Who can talk about the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law when the government presents a certain group of people as a target in this party state? Those who harshly criticized the top judiciary for their participation in the military briefings held during the Feb. 28 process have blocked the functioning of the judiciary. Don’t you think that this period will not be recorded in history? It is obvious that we are going though a process that is worse than the Feb. 28 process. The media controlled by the prime minister is acting more aggressively than the media organization that supported the Feb. 28 process.

Supporters of the new Feb 28 process declared that they have launched a process that will be more lawless and oppressive than the Feb 28 process by presenting the Hizmet movement as a threat against national security in the National Security Council (MGK) held on Feb. 26. In the Feb. 28 process, the military officials who did not like democracy presented the Hizmet movement as a threat against national security. Today, however, the military is adopting a more democratic approach than that of the civilians. The pro-government media’s claims that Turkey may issue an Interpol Red Notice for Fetullah Gülen Hocaefendi is alone enough to reveal those who have adopted the old Turkey’s anti-democratic practices. “The Feb. 28 process will last for 1,000 years,” they said. But it did not happen. Can the new Feb. 28 process last for 1,000 years? Not at all.

Source: Todays Zaman , March 3, 2014

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