The Encyclopedia of Islam and hate speech

Prof. Mumtazer Turkone
Prof. Mumtazer Turkone


Date posted: January 27, 2014

MÜMTAZER TÜRKÖNE

The Encyclopedia of Islam, a project backed by the Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation (TDV), has finally been completed after 30 years of hard work. This 44-volume work signifies the current level of Turkish theology and social sciences.

The TDV established an institute, the Center for Islamic Research (İSAM), to this end. The center has been populated by Turkey’s best experts in their areas of specialization. A big secretariat and documentation center was established. Worldwide documentation support was provided to the authors contributing to the articles. I know that work on the encyclopedia has been extremely fastidious as I, too, have written an article for it. This huge project has produced very lustrous work in a period spanning more than a quarter of a century.

Over the weekend, a ceremony was held to mark the end of the work for three projects, including the encyclopedia. At the ceremony, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave a speech in which he sacrificed this simple achievement to the sharp rhetoric of daily politics. With a gross example of hate speech, the prime minister humiliated all religious scholars who don’t think like him. His obvious target was Fethullah Gülen, but it is clear that he also attacked anyone who doesn’t think like him with phrases such as “false prophets,” “fake mystics” and “so-called scholars.” This denigration is problematic especially in terms of secularism. Indeed, the prime minister hurls gross insults at religious interpretations that diverge from his own. In his capacity as a prime minister, he imposes his beliefs and acts onto those who do not think like him. One step beyond these remarks would be the prime minister’s supporters’ resorting to violence against those he places on the bull’s eye.

This hate speech targets not only divergent religious interpretations but also anyone who criticizes the government’s policies. He recently accused Muharrem Yılmaz, the head of Turkey’s elite business club the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), of treason for saying, “Foreign investment will not come to a country in which there is no respect for the rule of law.” For a long time there were rumors that the prime minister would send tax inspectors to businessmen who would not surrender to him. The prime minister’s remarks are not part of polemics, but are open threats. The prime minister first accused the head of TÜSİAD of treason and then threatened him publicly: “After you said that, how will you promote your business with the prime minister? You will get your response at that time.” In other words, he said, “You will be dismissed when you apply for business with the state.” TÜSİAD comprises the most powerful and richest entrepreneurs. It wouldn’t be difficult to predict the magnitude of this threat to the fundamental rights of ordinary people. The prime minister controls the organs of a huge state apparatus. The judiciary has been canceled out in all respects. Even prosecutors and judges cannot save themselves from the prime minister’s rage.

This rage and flame is not normal. It indicates that the prime minister is in a difficult position. Feeling the heat from the graft probe, the prime minister is trying to thwart these pressures using hate speech. Hate speech will amplify the polarization of society. It will make for a more organized and lumped voter base sticking to the prime minister. This solidification of the voter bank will consolidate the national vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the local elections slated for March 30. By deliberately pushing limits in his hate speech, the prime minister intends to achieve this.

Will he be successful? This time, the prime minister is employing his hate speech against the conservative voters who had backed him. In other words, he is destroying the very ground on which he stands. Therefore, he is simply damaging himself. We will see the outcome two months from now.

Source: Todays Zaman , January 27, 2014


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