The recent fight between Kemalo-Islamism and Civil Islam

Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz


Date posted: November 27, 2013

İHSAN YILMAZ

As I have written here before, Islamists imagine Islam as a complete and ready-to-use divine system, with concrete political, cultural, legal and economic blueprints.

Their ideology is exclusivist and they are not open to negotiation, compromise or pluralistic viewpoints. Islamists do not pay much attention to civil society and always pursue the seizure of state power either through revolution or by democratic means, depending on the context. Islamists are happy to use Gramscian tools such as the media, schools, mosques and intellectuals to manufacture consent from the masses.

What is more, they believe that it is legitimate to use law as an instrument to engineer society in line with their religious Weltanschauung. They claim to be the sole voice of practicing Muslims. They give the impression that if voters say “Yes” to their party, its program and electoral manifesto, they can use state power as much as they see fit. Islamists like to classify sociopolitical phenomena around them in terms of binary oppositions. You are either with them or against them. There are no gray areas, no multiplicity of legitimate viewpoints, no dialogue and no compromise.

All these become apparent when they feel that they are powerful. Their praxis shows that they religiously respect, value and appreciate the state without criticizing its innate nafs-i ammara (the lower soul that causes evil and wrongdoing) that has to be monitored, checked and balanced. Look at what the Islamists did in Iran, Sudan and even Pakistan. They consider their political opposition to be enemies, thus justify all their Machiavellian acts with the false assertion that they are living in asr al-harb (time of war) if not dar al-harb (abode of war). They do not want to accept that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Their ends justify their means, and they think that their kulturkampf in itself legitimizes acquiring wealth illegally, anti-meritocratic practices, patronage relations, supporting partisans and telling “noble lies.” Then they justify the extermination of their rivals and competitors. If you do not vote for them, or if you seriously criticize them, you are a sinner or a child of the Byzantines.

They do not want to see that these are all against the spirit of Islam, Shariah and fiqh. This is what I, more or less, wrote when discussing the private accommodation of university students. Similarly, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is now trying to criminalize and shut down the most conspicuous representative of Civil Islam in Turkey, the Hizmet movement’s exam preparation schools. Religion is not taught in these schools, but most students have become acquainted with the Hizmet movement‘s Civil Islam, an understanding which does not “otherize,” is open to dialogue and compromise, dislikes top-down social engineering, is critically engaged with the West and modernity and focuses on spirituality, worship, charity and social action. Most of these students do not, of course, become involved with the movement, but they at least become Islamist-proof, resistant to the Islamist ideology. On the other hand, the AKP has a very vigorous state-led, top-down project of opening many imam-hatip schools to raise “a religious generation.” Reportedly, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared that it is the state’s duty to raise a religious generation. And, we all know that imam-hatip schools produce mostly Islamists.

As Mehmet Baransu of Taraf and Mümtaz’er Türkone of Zaman have argued, the Hizmet movement’s schools are perceived as an obstacle to this project. Thus, the AKP has been abusing state power to remove its Civil Islam competitor. They are so adamant in their Islamist project that an AKP deputy who is also a professor of Islamic theology has likened the Hizmet schools to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) parallel and illegal state system, the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). As I said, for Islamists, anyone who is not a loyal supporter, including friendly rivals, are enemies or even terrorists.

Source: Today's Zaman , November 27, 2013


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