Erdoğan and AK Party deputies split over hate speech against Hizmet


Date posted: March 15, 2014

ANKARA

Apparently, not every Justice and Development Party (AK Party) member and minister is on board with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hateful and insulting rhetoric against the Hizmet movement and Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and his followers.

Speaking on a TV program last week, Erdoğan complained that AK Party deputies are keeping a low profile in the row with the movement and Gülen, and not adopting a harsh stance or using the same insulting language as the prime minister — epithets like evil, assassins, traitors, viruses, mafia and parallel structure. Erdoğan claimed that deputies and some ministers have refrained from voicing fierce criticism against both Gülen and the movement because they don’t want to offend certain segments of society, adding that he expected AK Party deputies and ministers to tow the line and push his message.

During the same program, Erdoğan reprehended journalist Mustafa Karaalioğlu for not calling the movement “the organization” when he asked Erdoğan a question on the issue. “Why are you afraid of calling them ‘the organization’? Do not use ‘cemaat’ [movement] again in your definition of them.” Stunned by Erdoğan’s outburst, Karaalioğlu then used the word “formation” instead of cemaat, but this term also failed to satisfy Erdoğan, who interrupted Karaalioğlu and insisted he use the word “organization,” adding, “Cemaat is reserved for those who work for the benefit of the country.”

The intentions behind Erdoğan’s aggressive stance against the Hizmet movement are being questioned, with many analysts claiming his rhetoric is part of a wider strategy of stifling a graft investigation that went public on Dec. 17 when police conducted an operation against prominent businesspeople, officials and the sons of several ministers suspected of bribery and corruption. Veteran journalist Nazlı Ilıcak has said that Erdoğan aims to deflect attention from the corruption scandal with his insulting discourse, while AK Party deputies and the party’s rank and file are more careful with their words, suggesting that many party members aren’t buying into the “parallel state” and “traitor” rhetoric deployed by Erdoğan and members of his inner circle.

Ilıcak, noting that her friends have told her of a negative atmosphere within the ruling party, said AK Party deputies are uneasy about and disturbed by Erdoğan’s hate speech against the cemaat and Gülen. Pointing to the local elections, she said, “Most of the deputies and several ministers disagree with accusations by Erdoğan against the faith-based movement — like anyone who has a conscience — but they are eying the result of the municipal elections to be held on March 30. They have some concerns regarding re-election, so some of them are remaining silent despite the fact that they disagree with Erdoğan’s insulting language. There are also some segments within the AK Party that have considered themselves deeply loyal to the movement for years, since the AK Party did not exist 12 years ago, unlike the cemaat. If the poll goes poorly for the AK Party and its votes fall visibly, then dissidents’ voices will be heard loud and clear against Erdoğan’s smear campaign against the Hizmet movement.”

Former Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay, who resigned in late December 2013 after the government failed to come up with a satisfying response to the graft allegations and moved to protect the ministers implicated, said that Erdoğan’s remarks cannot be explained in a rational way, as the prime minister is waging a defamation campaign against the Cemaat instead of making arguments founded on facts.

Criticizing the hate speech Erdoğan has used in his endless smear campaign, Günay accused the prime minister of making a concerted effort to agitate enmity and hatred in society, saying, “No one who has a bit of conscience can claim that the current hate speech is appropriate. We observe an endless disrespect in Erdoğan’s words against Gülen and the Hizmet movement, with whom he once worked together for a common cause. No more than a year ago he sent his close associates to pay court to Gülen, who serves his country, while the prime minister is now directing unconscionable hate speech against the cleric and the Hizmet movement. This approach hurts people’s feelings. As for the AK Party deputies, they do not use the same vitriolic language as Erdoğan and prefer to remain silent in the face of the smear campaign. But they should object to Erdoğan’s insulting remarks. They should not endure his onslaught. These deputies are also aware of the provoking nature of these words. They do not agree with Erdoğan’s accusations against Gülen and his followers. Those who support Gülen are our friends and brothers. We have contact in daily social life with these people and cannot afford to be on bad terms. One should be ashamed of using this offensive and ‘othering’ language against those who are not expected to vote for his [Erdoğan’s] party in the upcoming elections.”

Former AK Party deputy İdris Bal, who resigned from the AK Party ahead of the corruption probe, accused the AK Party and Erdoğan of evolving an authoritarian approach, considering Erdoğan’s recent moves against the Hizmet as the part of efforts to assume absolute control over civil society in accordance with his political aspirations.

Offering a different perspective on Erdoğan’s hate speech against the Hizmet movement, Bal said the graft probe turned out to be a litmus test for the prime minister’s vision for Turkey — a test he failed by dynamiting social peace with his hateful attacks on a certain segment of society. “Erdoğan should decide whether he wants a Turkey that is like Lebanon, where sectarian, political and ethnic discrimination split the country, or not. In democratic societies, civil society, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based groups may wish to participate in politics and decision-making in order to cure politicians’ blindness to society’s demands. Ignoring civil society groups indicates the pursuit of an authoritarian regime,” Bal said.

Regarding the rift in the AK Party over Erdoğan’s hate speech, Bal said, “All political party members should determine their own priorities in accordance with the expectations of society. They should look into whether corruption, terror, illegal and unlawful activities, smuggling and bribery dominate the Hizmet movement. If there are no such signs, then they would be better off questioning what their leader says. AK Party deputies recognize that Erdoğan’s speech is full of derogatory and denigrating remarks, and consider it unethical and illegal. They also acknowledge that demonizing certain segments of society is unconstitutional. … But they are still worried about their political future, and that is why they remain silent in spite of the fact that they do not share Erdoğan’s insulting stance. They must be more courageous.”

 

Source: Todays Zaman , March 15, 2014


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