Date posted: January 20, 2014
We are going through a chaotic period. Lies and slanders are abundant. Some circles think it is their business to backbite. Some circles may save the day via lies, but these lies and slanders will inflict great wounds on every segment of society. There is and should be a limit for feeling anger. Alas! All moral value has disappeared.
A person (or a group of people) who are praised to the skies one minute can be easily mortified the next. Thus, people do not act with a sense of fairness and consideration. When the balance is disturbed, people start to be labeled as either “heros” or “traitors.” The practice of sanctifying or cursing people resembles a primitive ceremony and creates uneasiness in the society and threatens the peace. “Inciting the public to hatred and enmity” is defined as a punishable crime, which is an effort by the legal system to ensure social peace. As a result of very bitter experiences the world has faced, universal law pays great importance to hate crimes in order to prevent discrimination, alienation or demonization of a certain group.
This article is about the sociological and moral aspects of this issue. It seems that discrediting or defaming, insulting and alienating people is easy when there is no strict criteria. It is enough to look at a few examples in order to understand how people are gripped by hatred because of their self-centric values and criteria.
Ertuğrul Günay, who served as culture minister in the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government for six years, was once greatly respected by the AK Party members. He was forced to resign from the AK Party when he criticized some of the government’s actions. And afterwards, he has been the recipient of many hurtful remarks by AK Party supporters.
Former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, a long-time confidant of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and one of the founders of the AK Party, worked diligently for the success of the party for years. The public has learned that Şahin was also uneasy about the domination of a handful of oligarchy comprising politicians and bureaucrats, whose intentions are uncertain over the AK Party after the corruption probe that was launched on Dec. 17 last year. The former interior minister, who was a greatly respected figure of the AK Party, has been accused of treason.
Erdoğan Bayraktar, former environment and urban planning minister and president of the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) who was another close and old friend of Erdoğan, has resigned from the AK Party and his posts as minister and deputy after claiming that he had been pressured to submit his resignation to save the prestige of the government. He also added that most of the amendments on construction plans mentioned in the corruption investigation were made on Erdoğan’s orders. Since then, he has been harshly criticized by words that cannot even be uttered in a street fight.
The same applies to the Hakan Şükür. When Şükür, who is a well-known Turkish “brand” as a former football star, resigned from the party in protest of a government plan to shut down Turkey’s prep schools, he was attacked with the strongest of insults.
And in some cases, things are reversed. When people who have uttered very harsh criticism of the AK Party and Erdoğan backpedal and start to praise the prime minister and the party, they are being welcomed and applauded. There are lots of examples of this. As a short sampling:
“We will eliminate this movement [the AK Party] that is characterized by deeply rooted corruption. The only thing that they have done is abuse the religious sentiments of people,” (March 29, 2009) These words belong to the former leader of the Democrat Party (DP), Süleyman Soylu, but when he joined the AK Party, things completely changed. Soylu recently said, “Erdoğan is the eternal prime minister.” This was followed by an enthusiastic flood of applause.
Numan Kurtulmuş, former Felicity Party (SP) and Voice of the People Party (HAS Party) leader once criticized the AK Party, saying, “We will never adopt materialistic values,” and his comment disturbed senior executives of the AK Party. But Kurtulmuş carried his criticisms a step further: “Unlike the AK Party, we will not act in the manner of Pharaohs. There will be no thieves among us.” He also said, “Unlike Erdoğan, we will not trail behind the US and Israel.” Considering the reactions to Kurtulmuş’ remarks, I would have thought that he would be cursed by the AK Party forever. But now, Kurtulmuş is the AK Party deputy chairman; he is respected, praised and applauded by party members.
I do not want to mentioned the behavior of some media organizations, because there are so many bad examples it is not possible to list them all in this column. Among them, there is one who was fired just for criticizing the Kurdish initiative and he became a member of the Wise People Commission that was created to promote and explain to the public the settlement process with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); one who had been excluded because he criticized corruption then acted as a shield for the government after the corruption probe was launched on Dec. 17,2013; another who strongly supported the closure case that was brought against the AK Party and then became a great AK Party supporter and those who directed vary harsh criticism at the AK Party at one time but now try to make a place for themselves by giving wearisome compliments to the government.
I do not intend to prolong the debate. People have exceeded their boundaries both praising and criticizing the other side. If you support them you are the best, but when you criticize them, then there are dozens of labels, including treason, available to unfairly define you. Not surprisingly, inappropriate words are being uttered and these words are paving the way for social conflict when they filter down to other levels of society. People may support a party and then they may stop supporting it, or vice versa. Or, sometimes, they may continue to offer support but may criticize that party for their actions on some issues. This is a fact of not only politics, but also life. What’s really important is that to ensure social peace, we must introduce the norms and standards of a pluralist democracy to our political system and draw the correct route for our country by benefiting from constructive criticism. Harsh and fanatical discourse could lead to social conflict and damage the legitimacy of politics.
If unsaid words are so hurtful, what about all those already said?
Normally, I do not like to appear on TV programs. It makes me nervous. I am concerned that I might say something wrong and upset people. Despite this, I cannot avoid saying something about the issues which have accumulated over time upon the encouragement or insistence of my friends. This is what happened. I participated in attended Metin Yıkar’s TV program at Samanyolu Haber.
I tried to voice popular reactions. I tried to explain that no one’s consciences can accept the injustices recently done against Fethullah Gülen Hocaefendi and the Gülen community. In fact, I failed to properly express the resentment caused by these attacks against Mr. Gülen and the Gülen community. There is such great resentment! People have been disappointed and offended by the gang, cave, parallel structure claims. These gracious people do not deserve such harsh words.
Indeed, the government’s accusation of the community as being modern-day hashishiyya, who were hashish-consuming intoxicated assassins (also known as hashashins) of 12th century Persia and Syria both conflicts with historic facts and are nothing but an attempt to discredit the Gülen community. You can be sure that these claims cannot discredit this community because the Gülen community has passed thousands of tests and has never been involved in illegal acts.
While explaining the wrongness of the hashishiyya analogy, I said it is incorrect to use metaphors of historic incidents with a copy-paste mentality. I explained how those who are in the political center might be disturbed by social dynamisms and how this has caused many conflicts throughout history, also adding that some mischief-makers have tried to sow seeds of dissension between administrators and scholars.
One example of this was Yazid I, the second caliph of the Umayyad Caliphate who ordered the killing of Hussein ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, and his family and followers in the Karbala massacre. I explained how Yazid I was provoked by mischief-makers and abetted in committing such a great crime that everything he had done up until the Karbala massacre was wasted. I was talking about the mischief-makers who are plus royaliste que le roi and provoke hatred between brothers.
However, some presented the example which I gave in order to prevent another Karbala incident from happening as though I called the prime minister Yazid I. This is very upsetting. I did not call anyone Yazid I. My target was the fire of dissension which is sparked and inflamed by mischief-makers. These mischief-makers performed their duties and launched a black campaign by interpreting and generalizing unsaid words. This is exactly what a mischief-maker does.
Meanwhile, innocent people who straddle both sides are hurt. The resentment of these innocent people really upsets me. It seems that even unsaid words can be very hurtful, but what about all those already said? Gang, caverns and criminal organizations and hashishiyya, which was the worst. What to make of this, for God’s sake?
Let’s see what the prime minister said during the fourth ordinary general meeting of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON) in March of 2012:
“You are not backed by dark forces. You are not backed by the mafia, gangs, junta regimes. You are not backed by the bankers in Galata. You did not take advantage of the sources of the Treasury or public banks. You did not act according to an ideology. You did not surrender to the pressures and roadblocks. You only trusted in the people. Because you only relied on people, you are great and make this country great.”
Source: Todays Zaman , January 19, 2014