Ali Bulaç in Yarına Bakış writes that Turkey had the chance to provide a model of successful Islamist governance, and asks why it failed. Turkey could have been different, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. If every group had shown the maturity of sharing the work of governing with each other, while at the same time conserving their autonomy, then the process that started in 2002 would have ended with making Turkey a role model for the Middle East. We have to concede that the Muslims were unable to share power, and that they failed to construct a just power. They have forfeited nearly all of the gains that were made since 1960; indeed, the gains relating to freedoms and rights that had been obtained since parliamentary democracy was established in 1950 have been surrendered. This has more than one reason. Two principal reasons stand out: The first is the incompatibility between the two strands of Islam in Turkey that has never been surmounted, between the National Outlook movement and the Nurcu strand or strands; the other reason is that the religious fraternities, as soon as they glimpsed the light of power in the 21st century, reverted to the Ottoman tradition of seeing themselves as the prolongation of the state in society and engaged in a race to become the state’s most privileged group. Meanwhile, Muslim intellectuals quickly embraced the opportunity of becoming the official servants of the state. Anyone who chooses Turkey as model will repeat this mistake.
Levent Gültekin, who is a former Islamist and the author of a recent, bestselling book on the moral “defeat” of political Islam in power in Turkey, writes on the Diken news site that the first thing that comes to our mind when we think about the Islamic world is: death. We are not even afraid of saying, as we have done after the accident in which nearly one thousand pilgrims were killed, “How nice it was that these blessed people died at a blessed time, at a blessed place”! The religious understanding that prevails in the Islamic world is one that exults not in life, but death. It is because this religious understanding prevails that Muslims are utterly incapable of building cities that you can live in; it is because they have surrendered to this understanding that they do not bother to work on how to live a better life. In reality, as Muslims we are the living dead. That is because our lives have no value in these lands. And because death is valued more, things such as serenity, ethics, friendship, courtesy, knowledge, being principled – in short, to live like a human being – have no value. We cannot nourish any hope that we are ever going to be able to change this understanding, which prevents us from being like humans, and have it accepted by the Islamic world. So let us at least cease to preserve this religion – which is condemned to this understanding – as the focus of our lives.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.